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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Brain connectivity network modeling using fMRI signals Liu, Aiping


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is one of the most popular non-invasive neuroimaging technologies, which examines human brain at relatively good spatial resolution in both normal and disease states. In addition to the investigation of local neural activity in isolated brain regions, brain connectivity estimated from fMRI has provided a system-level view of brain functions. Despite recent progress on brain connectivity inference, there are still several challenges. Specifically, this thesis focuses on developing novel brain connectivity modeling approaches that can deal with particular challenges of real biomedical applications, including group pattern extraction from a population, false discovery rate control, incorporation of prior knowledge and time-varying brain connectivity network modeling. First, we propose a multi-subject, exploratory brain connectivity modeling approach that allows incorporation of prior knowledge of connectivity and determination of the dominant brain connectivity patterns among a group of subjects. Furthermore, to integrate the genetic information at the population level, a framework for genetically-informed group brain connectivity modeling is developed. We then focus on estimating the time-varying brain connectivity networks. The temporal dynamics of brain connectivity assess the brain in the additional temporal dimension and provide a new perspective to the understanding of brain functions. In this thesis, we develop a sticky weighted time-varying model to investigate the time-dependent brain connectivity networks. As the brain must strike a balance between stability and flexibility, purely assuming that brain connectivity is static or dynamic may be unrealistic. We therefore further propose making joint inference of time-invariant connections and time-varying coupling patterns by employing a multitask learning model. The above proposed methods have been applied to real fMRI data sets, and the disease induced changes on the brain connectivity networks have been observed. The brain connectivity study is able to provide deeper insights into neurological diseases, complementing the traditional symptom-based diagnostic methods. Results reported in this thesis suggest that brain connectivity patterns may serve as potential disease biomarkers in Parkinson's Disease.

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