MultiLink Analysis: Brain Network Comparison via Sparse Connectivity Analysis.


Pattern Analysis and Computer Vision, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy. [Email]


The analysis of the brain from a connectivity perspective is revealing novel insights into brain structure and function. Discovery is, however, hindered by the lack of prior knowledge used to make hypotheses. Additionally, exploratory data analysis is made complex by the high dimensionality of data. Indeed, to assess the effect of pathological states on brain networks, neuroscientists are often required to evaluate experimental effects in case-control studies, with hundreds of thousands of connections. In this paper, we propose an approach to identify the multivariate relationships in brain connections that characterize two distinct groups, hence permitting the investigators to immediately discover the subnetworks that contain information about the differences between experimental groups. In particular, we are interested in data discovery related to connectomics, where the connections that characterize differences between two groups of subjects are found. Nevertheless, those connections do not necessarily maximize the accuracy in classification since this does not guarantee reliable interpretation of specific differences between groups. In practice, our method exploits recent machine learning techniques employing sparsity to deal with weighted networks describing the whole-brain macro connectivity. We evaluated our technique on functional and structural connectomes from human and murine brain data. In our experiments, we automatically identified disease-relevant connections in datasets with supervised and unsupervised anatomy-driven parcellation approaches and by using high-dimensional datasets.