The voxel-wise functional connectome can be efficiently derived from co-activations in a sparse spatio-temporal point-process

Enzo Tagliazucchi, Michael Siniatchkin, Helmut Laufs, Dante R. Chialvo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Large efforts are currently under way to systematically map functional connectivity between all pairs of millimeter-scale brain regions based on large neuroimaging databases. The exploratory unraveling of this "functional connectome" based on functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) can benefit from a better understanding of the contributors to resting state functional connectivity. In this work, we introduce a sparse representation of fMRI data in the form of a discrete point-process encoding high-amplitude events in the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal and we show it contains sufficient information for the estimation of functional connectivity between all pairs of voxels. We validate this method by replicating results obtained with standard whole-brain voxel-wise linear correlation matrices in two datasets. In the first one (n = 71), we study the changes in node strength (a measure of network centrality) during deep sleep. The second is a large database (n = 1147) of subjects in which we look at the age-related reorganization of the voxel-wise network of functional connections. In both cases it is shown that the proposed method compares well with standard techniques, despite requiring only data on the order of 1% of the original BOLD signal time series. Furthermore, we establish that the point-process approach does not reduce (and in one case increases) classification accuracy compared to standard linear correlations. Our results show how large fMRI datasets can be drastically simplified to include only the timings of large-amplitude events, while still allowing the recovery of all pair-wise interactions between voxels. The practical importance of this dimensionality reduction is manifest in the increasing number of collaborative efforts aiming to study large cohorts of healthy subjects as well as patients suffering from brain disease. Our method also suggests that the electrophysiological signals underlying the dynamics of fMRI time series consist of all-or-none temporally localized events, analogous to the avalanches of neural activity observed in recordings of local field potentials (LFP), an observation of potentially high neurobiological relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number381
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 23 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Dimensionality reduction
  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional connectome
  • Point process
  • Resting state fMRI


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