A mixed-modeling framework for analyzing multitask whole-brain network data

Netw Neurosci. 2019 Feb 1;3(2):307-324. doi: 10.1162/netn_a_00065. eCollection 2019.


The emerging area of brain network analysis considers the brain as a system, providing profound insight into links between system-level properties and health outcomes. Network science has facilitated these analyses and our understanding of how the brain is organized. While network science has catalyzed a paradigmatic shift in neuroscience, methods for statistically analyzing networks have lagged behind. To address this for cross-sectional network data, we developed a mixed-modeling framework that enables quantifying the relationship between phenotype and connectivity patterns, predicting connectivity structure based on phenotype, simulating networks to gain a better understanding of topological variability, and thresholding individual networks leveraging group information. Here we extend this comprehensive approach to enable studying system-level brain properties across multiple tasks. We focus on rest-to-task network changes, but this extension is equally applicable to the assessment of network changes for any repeated task paradigm. Our approach allows (a) assessing population network differences in changes between tasks, and how these changes relate to health outcomes; (b) assessing individual variability in network differences in changes between tasks, and how this variability relates to health outcomes; and (c) deriving more accurate and precise estimates of the relationships between phenotype and health outcomes within a given task.

Keywords: Connectivity; Graph theory; Longitudinal; Network mixed model; Small-world; fMRI.