Edge-centric analysis of time-varying functional brain networks with applications in autism spectrum disorder

Neuroimage. 2022 Aug 27;263:119591. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119591. Online ahead of print.


The interaction between brain regions changes over time, which can be characterized using time-varying functional connectivity (tvFC). The common approach to estimate tvFC uses sliding windows and offers limited temporal resolution. An alternative method is to use the recently proposed edge-centric approach, which enables the tracking of moment-to-moment changes in co-fluctuation patterns between pairs of brain regions. Here, we first examined the dynamic features of edge time series and compared them to those in the sliding window tvFC (sw-tvFC). Then, we used edge time series to compare subjects with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and healthy controls (CN). Our results indicate that relative to sw-tvFC, edge time series captured rapid and bursty network-level fluctuations that synchronize across subjects during movie-watching. The results from the second part of the study suggested that the magnitude of peak amplitude in the collective co-fluctuations of brain regions (estimated as root sum square (RSS) of edge time series) is similar in CN and ASD. However, the trough-to-trough duration in RSS signal is greater in ASD, compared to CN. Furthermore, an edge-wise comparison of high-amplitude co-fluctuations showed that the within-network edges exhibited greater magnitude fluctuations in CN. Our findings suggest that high-amplitude co-fluctuations captured by edge time series provide details about the disruption of functional brain dynamics that could potentially be used in developing new biomarkers of mental disorders.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Edge time series; Passive movie-watching; Sliding window; Time varying functional connectivity.