A permutation testing framework to compare groups of brain networks

Front Comput Neurosci. 2013 Nov 25:7:171. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2013.00171. eCollection 2013.


Brain network analyses have moved to the forefront of neuroimaging research over the last decade. However, methods for statistically comparing groups of networks have lagged behind. These comparisons have great appeal for researchers interested in gaining further insight into complex brain function and how it changes across different mental states and disease conditions. Current comparison approaches generally either rely on a summary metric or on mass-univariate nodal or edge-based comparisons that ignore the inherent topological properties of the network, yielding little power and failing to make network level comparisons. Gleaning deeper insights into normal and abnormal changes in complex brain function demands methods that take advantage of the wealth of data present in an entire brain network. Here we propose a permutation testing framework that allows comparing groups of networks while incorporating topological features inherent in each individual network. We validate our approach using simulated data with known group differences. We then apply the method to functional brain networks derived from fMRI data.

Keywords: Jaccard; Kolmogorov-Smirnov; connectivity; fMRI; graph theory; neuroimaging; small-world.