Assessing uncertainty in dynamic functional connectivity

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Functional connectivity (FC) – the study of the statistical association between time series from anatomically distinct regions (Friston, 1994, 2011) – has become one of the primary areas of research in the field surrounding resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI). Although for many years researchers have implicitly assumed that FC was stationary across time in rs-fMRI, it has recently become increasingly clear that this is not the case and the ability to assess dynamic changes in FC is critical for better understanding of the inner workings of the human brain (Hutchison et al., 2013; Chang and Glover, 2010). Currently, the most common strategy for estimating these dynamic changes is to use the sliding-window technique. However, its greatest shortcoming is the inherent variation present in the estimate, even for null data, which is easily confused with true time-varying changes in connectivity (Lindquist et al., 2014). This can have serious consequences as even spurious fluctuations caused by noise can easily be confused with an important signal. For these reasons, assessment of uncertainty in the sliding-window correlation estimates is of critical importance. Here we propose a new approach that combines the multivariate linear process bootstrap (MLPB) method and a sliding-window technique to assess the uncertainty in a dynamic FC estimate by providing its confidence bands. Both numerical results and an application to rs-fMRI study are presented, showing the efficacy of the proposed method.

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