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Neuroimage. 2007 Feb 1;34(3):1093-107. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Functional connectivity in fMRI: A modeling approach for estimation and for relating to local circuits.

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Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland at College Park, MD, USA.


Although progress has been made in relating neuronal events to changes in brain metabolism and blood flow, the interpretation of functional neuroimaging data in terms of the underlying brain circuits is still poorly understood. Computational modeling of connection patterns both among and within regions can be helpful in this interpretation. We present a neural network model of the ventral visual pathway and its relevant functional connections. This includes a new learning method that adjusts the magnitude of interregional connections in order to match experimental results of an arbitrary functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data set. We demonstrate that this method finds the appropriate connection strengths when trained on a model system with known, randomly chosen connection weights. We then use the method for examining fMRI results from a one-back matching task in human subjects, both healthy and those with schizophrenia. The results discovered by the learning method support previous findings of a disconnection between left temporal and frontal cortices in the group with schizophrenia and a concomitant increase of right-sided temporo-frontal connection strengths. We then demonstrate that the disconnection may be explained by reduced local recurrent circuitry in frontal cortex. This method extends currently available methods for estimating functional connectivity from human imaging data by including both local circuits and features of interregional connections, such as topography and sparseness, in addition to total connection strengths. Furthermore, our results suggest how fronto-temporal functional disconnection in schizophrenia can result from reduced local synaptic connections within frontal cortex rather than compromised interregional connections.

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