Damage to the shortest structural paths between brain regions is associated with disruptions of resting-state functional connectivity after stroke

Joseph C. Griffis, Nicholas V. Metcalf, Maurizio Corbetta, Gordon L. Shulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Focal brain lesions disrupt resting-state functional connectivity, but the underlying structural mechanisms are unclear. Here, we examined the direct and indirect effects of structural disconnections on resting-state functional connectivity in a large sample of sub-acute stroke patients with heterogeneous brain lesions. We estimated the impact of each patient's lesion on the structural connectome by embedding the lesion in a diffusion MRI streamline tractography atlas constructed using data from healthy individuals. We defined direct disconnections as the loss of direct structural connections between two regions, and indirect disconnections as increases in the shortest structural path length between two regions that lack direct structural connections. We then tested the hypothesis that functional connectivity disruptions would be more severe for disconnected regions than for regions with spared connections. On average, nearly 20% of all region pairs were estimated to be either directly or indirectly disconnected by the lesions in our sample, and extensive disconnections were associated primarily with damage to deep white matter locations. Importantly, both directly and indirectly disconnected region pairs showed more severe functional connectivity disruptions than region pairs with spared direct and indirect connections, respectively, although functional connectivity disruptions tended to be most severe between region pairs that sustained direct structural disconnections. Together, these results emphasize the widespread impacts of focal brain lesions on the structural connectome and show that these impacts are reflected by disruptions of the functional connectome. Further, they indicate that in addition to direct structural disconnections, lesion-induced increases in the structural shortest path lengths between indirectly structurally connected region pairs provide information about the remote functional disruptions caused by focal brain lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116589
StatePublished - Apr 15 2020


  • Functional connectivity
  • Lesion
  • Shortest path length
  • Stroke
  • Structural connectivity
  • Structural disconnection

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