Network science has been extensively developed to characterize the structural properties of complex systems, including brain networks inferred from neuroimaging data. As a result of the inference process, networks estimated from experimentally obtained biological data represent one instance of a larger number of realizations with similar intrinsic topology. A modelling approach is therefore needed to support statistical inference on the bottom-up local connectivity mechanisms influencing the formation of the estimated brain networks. Here, we adopted a statistical model based on exponential random graph models (ERGMs) to reproduce brain networks, or connectomes, estimated by spectral coherence between high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) signals. ERGMs are made up by different local graph metrics, whereas the parameters weight the respective contribution in explaining the observed network. We validated this approach in a dataset of N = 108 healthy subjects during eyes-open (EO) and eyes-closed (EC) resting-state conditions. Results showed that the tendency to form triangles and stars, reflecting clustering and node centrality, better explained the global properties of the EEG connectomes than other combinations of graph metrics. In particular, the synthetic networks generated by this model configuration replicated the characteristic differences found in real brain networks, with EO eliciting significantly higher segregation in the alpha frequency band (8–13 Hz) than EC. Furthermore, the fitted ERGM parameter values provided complementary information showing that clustering connections are significantly more represented from EC to EO in the alpha range, but also in the beta band (14–29 Hz), which is known to play a crucial role in cortical processing of visual input and externally oriented attention. Taken together, these findings support the current view of the functional segregation and integration of the brain in terms of modules and hubs, and provide a statistical approach to extract new information on the (re)organizational mechanisms in healthy and diseased brains.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3695518.
- Received November 23, 2016.
- Accepted February 10, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.