Homological scaffolds of brain functional networks

Authors: Petri G, Expert P, Turkheimer F, Carhart-Harris R, Nutt D, Hellyer PJ, Vaccarino F.


Networks, as efficient representations of complex systems, have appealed to scientists for a long time and now permeate many areas of science, including neuroimaging (Bullmore and Sporns 2009 Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 10, 186-198. (doi:10.1038/nrn2618)). Traditionally, the structure of complexnetworks has been studied through their statistical properties and metrics concerned with node and link properties, e.g. degree-distribution, node centrality and modularity. Here, we study the characteristics of functional brain networks at the mesoscopic level from a novel perspective that highlights the role of inhomogeneities in the fabric of functional connections. This can be done by focusing on the features of a set of topological objects-homological cycles-associated with the weighted functional network. We leverage the detected topological information to define thehomological scaffolds, a new set of objects designed to represent compactly the homological features of the correlation network and simultaneously make their homological properties amenable to networks theoretical methods. As a proof of principle,we apply these tools to compare resting state functional brain activity in 15 healthy volunteers after intravenous infusion of placebo and psilocybin-the main psychoactive component of magic mushrooms. The results show that the homological structure of the brain‘s functional patterns undergoes a dramatic change post-psilocybin, characterized by the appearance of many transient structures of low stability and of a small number of persistent ones that are not observed in the case of placebo.