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Brain. 1998 Aug;121 ( Pt 8):1545-56.

Brain-behaviour relationships. Some models and related statistical procedures for the study of brain-damaged patients.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Lille, France. ogodefroy@chru-lille.fr


The study of brain-damaged patients provides the opportunity to examine the anatomy of brain functions, and has been renewed by the development of structural neuroimaging. Despite the development of neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessment, major uncertainties persist on the exact delimitation of the brain areas involved in specific processes, and these contribute to the enduring controversies over the effective lesions associated with neuropsychological disorders. These uncertainties are mainly due to the methods used in the study of brain-behaviour relationships, which frequently rely on a group comparison design. The aim of this study was to provide models for the study of brain-behaviour relationships and to assess the reliability of related statistical procedures. In the present work, four theoretical modes of brain-behaviour relationship consistent with neuropsychological data are put forward: unicity, equivalence, association and summation. The first experimental study was based on a simulated population of patients. Lesions associated with the occurrence of a deficit were predetermined according to modes of brain-behaviour relationship and were compared with lesions selected by statistical analysis. The study showed that (i) the group comparison design did not allow determination of the effective lesion, (ii) stepwise regression analysis was sensitive to the relative frequency of lesions, especially when the occurrence of a deficit depended on two lesions, but did not allow determination of the mode of brain-behaviour relationship, and (iii) the classification tree test described the data very satisfactorily and permitted the determination of the mode of brain-behaviour relationships. In order to assess the validity of statistical analyses, a second study was performed in which lesion locations associated with motor weakness in stroke patients were examined. Selected lesions were compared with the anatomy of the human motor system. The study mainly showed that (i) the stepwise regression analysis of selected lesions was not related to the presence of a motor deficit, and (ii) the classification tree test provided perfect agreement with motor weakness predicted by lesion locations and suggested an equivalence mode of brain-behaviour relationship consistent with current neurological knowledge. These studies provide models of brain-behaviour relationships and related statistical procedures that may allow more precise documentation of the anatomy of brain functions and its pathology, and further investigation of the modalities of brain-behaviour relationships.

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