Strong intercorrelations among global graph-theoretic indices of structural connectivity in the human brain

James W. Madole, Colin R. Buchanan, Mijke Rhemtulla, Stuart J. Ritchie, Mark E. Bastin, Ian J. Deary, Simon R. Cox, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Graph-theoretic metrics derived from neuroimaging data have been heralded as powerful tools for uncovering neural mechanisms of psychological traits, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. In N = 8,185 human structural connectomes from UK Biobank, we examined the extent to which 11 commonly-used global graph-theoretic metrics index distinct versus overlapping information with respect to interindividual differences in brain organization. Using unthresholded, FA-weighted networks we found that all metrics other than Participation Coefficient were highly intercorrelated, both with each other (mean |r| = 0.788) and with a topologically-naïve summary index of brain structure (mean edge weight; mean |r| = 0.873). In a series of sensitivity analyses, we found that overlap between metrics is influenced by the sparseness of the network and the magnitude of variation in edge weights. Simulation analyses representing a range of population network structures indicated that individual differences in global graph metrics may be intrinsically difficult to separate from mean edge weight. In particular, Closeness, Characteristic Path Length, Global Efficiency, Clustering Coefficient, and Small Worldness were nearly perfectly collinear with one another (mean |r| = 0.939) and with mean edge weight (mean |r| = 0.952) across all observed and simulated conditions. Global graph-theoretic measures are valuable for their ability to distill a high-dimensional system of neural connections into summary indices of brain organization, but they may be of more limited utility when the goal is to index separable components of interindividual variation in specific properties of the human structural connectome.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120160
Number of pages13
Early online date9 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • network neuroscience
  • connectomics
  • diffusion MRI
  • structural MRI
  • graph theory


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