Extracting Intrinsic Functional Networks with Feature-Based Group Independent Component Analysis
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There is increasing use of functional imaging data to understand the macro-connectome of the human brain. Of particular interest is the structure and function of intrinsic networks (regions exhibiting temporally coherent activity both at rest and while a task is being performed), which account for a significant portion of the variance in functional MRI data. While networks are typically estimated based on the temporal similarity between regions (based on temporal correlation, clustering methods, or independent component analysis [ICA]), some recent work has suggested that these intrinsic networks can be extracted from the inter-subject covariation among highly distilled features, such as amplitude maps reflecting regions modulated by a task or even coordinates extracted from large meta analytic studies. In this paper our goal was to explicitly compare the networks obtained from a first-level ICA (ICA on the spatio-temporal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data) to those from a second-level ICA (i.e., ICA on computed features rather than on the first-level fMRI data). Convergent results from simulations, task-fMRI data, and rest-fMRI data show that the second-level analysis is slightly noisier than the first-level analysis but yields strikingly similar patterns of intrinsic networks (spatial correlations as high as 0.85 for task data and 0.65 for rest data, well above the empirical null) and also preserves the relationship of these networks with other variables such as age (for example, default mode network regions tended to show decreased low frequency power for first-level analyses and decreased loading parameters for second-level analyses). In addition, the best-estimated second-level results are those which are the most strongly reflected in the input feature. In summary, the use of feature-based ICA appears to be a valid tool for extracting intrinsic networks. We believe it will become a useful and important approach in the study of the macro-connectome, particularly in the context of data fusion.