The dynamics of the brain's intrinsic networks have been recently studied using co-activation pattern (CAP) analysis. The CAP method relies on few model assumptions and CAP-based measurements provide quantitative information of network temporal dynamics. One limitation of existing CAP-related methods is that the computed CAPs share considerable spatial overlap that may or may not be functionally distinct relative to specific network dynamics. To more accurately describe network dynamics with spatially distinct CAPs, and to compare network dynamics between different populations, a novel data-driven CAP group analysis method is proposed in this study. In the proposed method, a dominant-CAP (d-CAP) set is synthesized across CAPs from multiple clustering runs for each group with the constraint of low spatial similarities among d-CAPs. Alternating d-CAPs with less overlapping spatial patterns can better capture overall network dynamics. The number of d-CAPs, the temporal fraction and spatial consistency of each d-CAP, and the subject-specific switching probability among all d-CAPs are then calculated for each group and used to compare network dynamics between groups.
The spatial dissimilarities among d-CAPs computed with the proposed method were first demonstrated using simulated data. High consistency between simulated ground-truth and computed d-CAPs was achieved, and detailed comparisons between the proposed method and existing CAP-based methods were conducted using simulated data. In an effort to physiologically validate the proposed technique and investigate network dynamics in a relevant brain network disorder, the proposed method was then applied to data from the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) database to compare the network dynamics in Parkinson's disease (PD) and normal control (NC) groups. Fewer d-CAPs, skewed distribution of temporal fractions of d-CAPs, and reduced switching probabilities among final d-CAPs were found in most networks in the PD group, as compared to the NC group. Furthermore, an overall negative association between switching probability among d-CAPs and disease severity was observed in most networks in the PD group as well. These results expand upon previous findings from in vivo electrophysiological recording studies in PD. Importantly, this novel analysis also demonstrates that changes in network dynamics can be measured using resting-state fMRI data from subjects with early stage PD.