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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Sep;19(9):566-578. doi: 10.1038/s41583-018-0038-8.

On the nature and use of models in network neuroscience.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Philosophy, American University, Washington, DC, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Network theory provides an intuitively appealing framework for studying relationships among interconnected brain mechanisms and their relevance to behaviour. As the space of its applications grows, so does the diversity of meanings of the term network model. This diversity can cause confusion, complicate efforts to assess model validity and efficacy, and hamper interdisciplinary collaboration. In this Review, we examine the field of network neuroscience, focusing on organizing principles that can help overcome these challenges. First, we describe the fundamental goals in constructing network models. Second, we review the most common forms of network models, which can be described parsimoniously along the following three primary dimensions: from data representations to first-principles theory; from biophysical realism to functional phenomenology; and from elementary descriptions to coarse-grained approximations. Third, we draw on biology, philosophy and other disciplines to establish validation principles for these models. We close with a discussion of opportunities to bridge model types and point to exciting frontiers for future pursuits.


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