Magnetic resonance imaging allows acquiring functional and structural connectivity data from which high-density whole-brain networks can be derived to carry out connectome-wide analyses in normal and clinical populations. Graph theory has been widely applied to investigate the modular structure of brain connections by using centrality measures to identify the "hub" of human connectomes, and community detection methods to delineate subnetworks associated with diverse cognitive and sensorimotor functions. These analyses typically rely on a preprocessing step (pruning) to reduce computational complexity and remove the weakest edges that are most likely affected by experimental noise. However, weak links may contain relevant information about brain connectivity, therefore, the identification of the optimal trade-off between retained and discarded edges is a subject of active research. We introduce a pruning algorithm to identify edges that carry the highest information content. The algorithm selects both strong edges (i.e. edges belonging to shortest paths) and weak edges that are topologically relevant in weakly connected subnetworks. The newly developed "strong-weak" pruning (SWP) algorithm was validated on simulated networks that mimic the structure of human brain networks. It was then applied for the analysis of a real dataset of subjects affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), both at the early (ALS2) and late (ALS3) stage of the disease, and of healthy control subjects. SWP preprocessing allowed identifying statistically significant differences in the path length of networks between patients and healthy subjects. ALS patients showed a decrease of connectivity between frontal cortex to temporal cortex and parietal cortex and between temporal and occipital cortex. Moreover, degree of centrality measures revealed significantly different hub and centrality scores between patient subgroups. These findings suggest a widespread alteration of network topology in ALS associated with disease progression.

Strong-Weak Pruning for Brain Network Identification in Connectome-Wide Neuroimaging: Application to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Disease Stage Characterization

Serra, Angela;Galdi, Paola;Pesce, Emanuele;Fratello, Michele;Tagliaferri, Roberto;Esposito, Fabrizio
2019-01-01

Abstract

Magnetic resonance imaging allows acquiring functional and structural connectivity data from which high-density whole-brain networks can be derived to carry out connectome-wide analyses in normal and clinical populations. Graph theory has been widely applied to investigate the modular structure of brain connections by using centrality measures to identify the "hub" of human connectomes, and community detection methods to delineate subnetworks associated with diverse cognitive and sensorimotor functions. These analyses typically rely on a preprocessing step (pruning) to reduce computational complexity and remove the weakest edges that are most likely affected by experimental noise. However, weak links may contain relevant information about brain connectivity, therefore, the identification of the optimal trade-off between retained and discarded edges is a subject of active research. We introduce a pruning algorithm to identify edges that carry the highest information content. The algorithm selects both strong edges (i.e. edges belonging to shortest paths) and weak edges that are topologically relevant in weakly connected subnetworks. The newly developed "strong-weak" pruning (SWP) algorithm was validated on simulated networks that mimic the structure of human brain networks. It was then applied for the analysis of a real dataset of subjects affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), both at the early (ALS2) and late (ALS3) stage of the disease, and of healthy control subjects. SWP preprocessing allowed identifying statistically significant differences in the path length of networks between patients and healthy subjects. ALS patients showed a decrease of connectivity between frontal cortex to temporal cortex and parietal cortex and between temporal and occipital cortex. Moreover, degree of centrality measures revealed significantly different hub and centrality scores between patient subgroups. These findings suggest a widespread alteration of network topology in ALS associated with disease progression.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11386/4722062
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