Functional Brain Networks Are Dominated by Stable Group and Individual Factors, Not Cognitive or Daily Variation

Neuron. 2018 Apr 18;98(2):439-452.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.03.035.


The organization of human brain networks can be measured by capturing correlated brain activity with fMRI. There is considerable interest in understanding how brain networks vary across individuals or neuropsychiatric populations or are altered during the performance of specific behaviors. However, the plausibility and validity of such measurements is dependent on the extent to which functional networks are stable over time or are state dependent. We analyzed data from nine high-quality, highly sampled individuals to parse the magnitude and anatomical distribution of network variability across subjects, sessions, and tasks. Critically, we find that functional networks are dominated by common organizational principles and stable individual features, with substantially more modest contributions from task-state and day-to-day variability. Sources of variation were differentially distributed across the brain and differentially linked to intrinsic and task-evoked sources. We conclude that functional networks are suited to measuring stable individual characteristics, suggesting utility in personalized medicine.

Keywords: brain networks; fMRI; functional connectivity; individual differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*