Graph theory analysis reveals how sickle cell disease impacts neural networks of patients with more severe disease

Neuroimage Clin. 2019;21:101599. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2018.11.009. Epub 2018 Nov 14.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hereditary blood disorder associated with many life-threatening comorbidities including cerebral stroke and chronic pain. The long-term effects of this disease may therefore affect the global brain network which is not clearly understood. We performed graph theory analysis of functional networks using non-invasive fMRI and high resolution EEG on thirty-one SCD patients and sixteen healthy controls. Resting state data were analyzed to determine differences between controls and patients with less severe and more severe sickle cell related pain. fMRI results showed that patients with higher pain severity had lower clustering coefficients and local efficiency. The neural network of the more severe patient group behaved like a random network when performing a targeted attack network analysis. EEG results showed the beta1 band had similar results to fMRI resting state data. Our data show that SCD affects the brain on a global level and that graph theory analysis can differentiate between patients with different levels of pain severity.

Keywords: Electroencephalography (EEG); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Graph theory; Resting state; Sickle cell disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Young Adult