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Exponential Random Graph Modeling for Complex Brain Networks

By Sean L. Simpson, Satoru Hayasaka and Paul J. Laurienti


Exponential random graph models (ERGMs), also known as p* models, have been utilized extensively in the social science literature to study complex networks and how their global structure depends on underlying structural components. However, the literature on their use in biological networks (especially brain networks) has remained sparse. Descriptive models based on a specific feature of the graph (clustering coefficient, degree distribution, etc.) have dominated connectivity research in neuroscience. Corresponding generative models have been developed to reproduce one of these features. However, the complexity inherent in whole-brain network data necessitates the development and use of tools that allow the systematic exploration of several features simultaneously and how they interact to form the global network architecture. ERGMs provide a statistically principled approach to the assessment of how a set of interacting local brain network features gives rise to the global structure. We illustrate the utility of ERGMs for modeling, analyzing, and simulating complex whole-brain networks with network data from normal subjects. We also provide a foundation for the selection of important local features through the implementation and assessment of three selection approaches: a traditional p-value based backward selection approach, an information criterion approach (AIC), and a graphical goodness of fit (GOF) approach. The graphical GOF approach serves as the best method given the scientific interest in being able to capture and reproduce the structure of fitted brain networks

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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