Relations between large-scale brain connectivity and effects of regional stimulation depend on collective dynamical state

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Sep 4;16(9):e1008144. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008144. eCollection 2020 Sep.


At the macroscale, the brain operates as a network of interconnected neuronal populations, which display coordinated rhythmic dynamics that support interareal communication. Understanding how stimulation of different brain areas impacts such activity is important for gaining basic insights into brain function and for further developing therapeutic neurmodulation. However, the complexity of brain structure and dynamics hinders predictions regarding the downstream effects of focal stimulation. More specifically, little is known about how the collective oscillatory regime of brain network activity-in concert with network structure-affects the outcomes of perturbations. Here, we combine human connectome data and biophysical modeling to begin filling these gaps. By tuning parameters that control collective system dynamics, we identify distinct states of simulated brain activity and investigate how the distributed effects of stimulation manifest at different dynamical working points. When baseline oscillations are weak, the stimulated area exhibits enhanced power and frequency, and due to network interactions, activity in this excited frequency band propagates to nearby regions. Notably, beyond these linear effects, we further find that focal stimulation causes more distributed modifications to interareal coherence in a band containing regions' baseline oscillation frequencies. Importantly, depending on the dynamical state of the system, these broadband effects can be better predicted by functional rather than structural connectivity, emphasizing a complex interplay between anatomical organization, dynamics, and response to perturbation. In contrast, when the network operates in a regime of strong regional oscillations, stimulation causes only slight shifts in power and frequency, and structural connectivity becomes most predictive of stimulation-induced changes in network activity patterns. In sum, this work builds upon and extends previous computational studies investigating the impacts of stimulation, and underscores the fact that both the stimulation site, and, crucially, the regime of brain network dynamics, can influence the network-wide responses to local perturbations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Connectome*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology