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PLOS ONE  2014 

Cluster Size Statistic and Cluster Mass Statistic: Two Novel Methods for Identifying Changes in Functional Connectivity Between Groups or Conditions

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098697

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Functional connectivity has become an increasingly important area of research in recent years. At a typical spatial resolution, approximately 300 million connections link each voxel in the brain with every other. This pattern of connectivity is known as the functional connectome. Connectivity is often compared between experimental groups and conditions. Standard methods used to control the type 1 error rate are likely to be insensitive when comparisons are carried out across the whole connectome, due to the huge number of statistical tests involved. To address this problem, two new cluster based methods – the cluster size statistic (CSS) and cluster mass statistic (CMS) – are introduced to control the family wise error rate across all connectivity values. These methods operate within a statistical framework similar to the cluster based methods used in conventional task based fMRI. Both methods are data driven, permutation based and require minimal statistical assumptions. Here, the performance of each procedure is evaluated in a receiver operator characteristic (ROC) analysis, utilising a simulated dataset. The relative sensitivity of each method is also tested on real data: BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) fMRI scans were carried out on twelve subjects under normal conditions and during the hypercapnic state (induced through the inhalation of 6% CO2 in 21% O2 and 73%N2). Both CSS and CMS detected significant changes in connectivity between normal and hypercapnic states. A family wise error correction carried out at the individual connection level exhibited no significant changes in connectivity.


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