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Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 1;56(3):1202-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.12.039. Epub 2010 Dec 21.

Network discovery with DCM.

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The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK.


This paper is about inferring or discovering the functional architecture of distributed systems using Dynamic Causal Modelling (DCM). We describe a scheme that recovers the (dynamic) Bayesian dependency graph (connections in a network) using observed network activity. This network discovery uses Bayesian model selection to identify the sparsity structure (absence of edges or connections) in a graph that best explains observed time-series. The implicit adjacency matrix specifies the form of the network (e.g., cyclic or acyclic) and its graph-theoretical attributes (e.g., degree distribution). The scheme is illustrated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) time series to discover functional brain networks. Crucially, it can be applied to experimentally evoked responses (activation studies) or endogenous activity in task-free (resting state) fMRI studies. Unlike conventional approaches to network discovery, DCM permits the analysis of directed and cyclic graphs. Furthermore, it eschews (implausible) Markovian assumptions about the serial independence of random fluctuations. The scheme furnishes a network description of distributed activity in the brain that is optimal in the sense of having the greatest conditional probability, relative to other networks. The networks are characterised in terms of their connectivity or adjacency matrices and conditional distributions over the directed (and reciprocal) effective connectivity between connected nodes or regions. We envisage that this approach will provide a useful complement to current analyses of functional connectivity for both activation and resting-state studies.

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