Contemporary neuroscience has embraced network science and dynamical systems to study the complex and self-organized structure of the human brain. Despite the developments in non-invasive neuroimaging techniques, a full understanding of the directed interactions in whole brain networks, referred to as effective connectivity, as well as their role in the emergent brain dynamics is still lacking. The main reason is that estimating brain connectivity requires solving a formidable large-scale inverse problem from indirect and noisy measurements. Building on the dynamic causal modelling framework, the present study offers a novel method for estimating whole-brain effective connectivity from resting-state functional magnetic resonance data. To this purpose sparse estimation methods are adapted to infer the parameters of our novel model, which is based on a linearized, region-specific haemodynamic response function. The resulting algorithm, referred to as sparse DCM, is shown to compare favorably with state-of-the art methods when tested on both synthetic and real data. We also provide a graph-theoretical analysis on the whole-brain effective connectivity estimated using data from a cohort of healthy individuals, which reveals properties such as asymmetry in the connectivity structure as well as the different roles of brain areas in favoring segregation or integration.
- Dynamic causal modelling
- effective connectivity