Network functional connectivity and whole-brain functional connectomics to investigate cognitive decline in neurodegenerative conditions
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Non-invasive mapping of brain functional connectivity (FC) has played a fundamental role in neuroscience, and numerous scientists have been fascinated by its ability to reveal the brain’s intricate morphology and functional properties. In recent years, two different techniques have been developed that are able to explore FC in pathophysiological conditions and to provide simple and non-invasive biomarkers for the detection of disease onset, severity and progression. These techniques are independent component analysis, which allows a network-based functional exploration of the brain, and graph theory, which provides a quantitative characterization of the whole-brain FC. In this paper we provide an overview of these two techniques and some examples of their clinical applications in the most common neurodegenerative disorders associated with cognitive decline, including mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia.
KEY WORDS: brain functional connectivity, graph theoretical methods, independent component analysis, neurodegenerative disorders, resting state networks.