In this work, we address the problem of using dynamic causal modelling (DCM) to estimate the coupling parameters (effective connectivity) of large models with many regions. This is a potentially important problem because meaningful graph theoretic analyses of effective connectivity rest upon the statistics of the connections (edges). This calls for characterisations of networks with an appreciable number of regions (nodes). The problem here is that the number of coupling parameters grows quadratically with the number of nodes—leading to severe conditional dependencies among their estimates and a computational load that quickly becomes unsustainable. Here, we describe a simple solution, in which we use functional connectivity to provide prior constraints that bound the effective number of free parameters. In brief, we assume that priors over connections between individual nodes can be replaced by priors over connections between modes (patterns over nodes). By using a small number of modes, we can reduce the dimensionality of the problem in an informed way. The modes we use are the principal components or eigenvectors of the functional connectivity matrix. However, this approach begs the question of how many modes to use. This question can be addressed using Bayesian model comparison to optimise the number of modes. We imagine that this form of prior – over the extrinsic (endogenous) connections in large DCMs – may be useful for people interested in applying graph theory to distributed networks in the brain or to characterise connectivity beyond the subgraphs normally examined in DCM.Highlights
▸ Here we investigate the possibility to invert large DCMs with many regions. ▸ To do that, we place constraints on priors to bind the number of free parameters. ▸ Constraints are provided by the principal modes of the functional connectivity. ▸ Bayesian model comparison is used to identify the optimal number of modes. ▸ The ability to invert large DCMs provides a new opportunity for graph theory users.