Graph Theoretical Framework of Brain Networks in Multiple Sclerosis: A Review of Concepts

Neuroscience. 2019 Apr 1;403:35-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.10.033. Epub 2017 Nov 1.


Network science provides powerful access to essential organizational principles of the human brain. It has been applied in combination with graph theory to characterize brain connectivity patterns. In multiple sclerosis (MS), analysis of the brain networks derived from either structural or functional imaging provides new insights into pathological processes within the gray and white matter. Beyond focal lesions and diffuse tissue damage, network connectivity patterns could be important for closely tracking and predicting the disease course. In this review, we describe concepts of graph theory, highlight novel issues of tissue reorganization in acute and chronic neuroinflammation and address pitfalls with regard to network analysis in MS patients. We further provide an outline of functional and structural connectivity patterns observed in MS, spanning from disconnection and disruption on one hand to adaptation and compensation on the other. Moreover, we link network changes and their relation to clinical disability based on the current literature. Finally, we discuss the perspective of network science in MS for future research and postulate its role in the clinical framework.

Keywords: functional connectivity; graph theory; multiple sclerosis; network analysis; network reorganization; structural connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / diagnostic imaging
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / pathology
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology