Ghost Attractors in Spontaneous Brain Activity: Recurrent Excursions Into Functionally-Relevant BOLD Phase-Locking States.
Vohryzek J., Deco G., Cessac B., Kringelbach ML., Cabral J.
Functionally relevant network patterns form transiently in brain activity during rest, where a given subset of brain areas exhibits temporally synchronized BOLD signals. To adequately assess the biophysical mechanisms governing intrinsic brain activity, a detailed characterization of the dynamical features of functional networks is needed from the experimental side to constrain theoretical models. In this work, we use an open-source fMRI dataset from 100 healthy participants from the Human Connectome Project and analyze whole-brain activity using Leading Eigenvector Dynamics Analysis (LEiDA), which serves to characterize brain activity at each time point by its whole-brain BOLD phase-locking pattern. Clustering these BOLD phase-locking patterns into a set of k states, we demonstrate that the cluster centroids closely overlap with reference functional subsystems. Borrowing tools from dynamical systems theory, we characterize spontaneous brain activity in the form of trajectories within the state space, calculating the Fractional Occupancy and the Dwell Times of each state, as well as the Transition Probabilities between states. Finally, we demonstrate that within-subject reliability is maximized when including the high frequency components of the BOLD signal (>0.1 Hz), indicating the existence of individual fingerprints in dynamical patterns evolving at least as fast as the temporal resolution of acquisition (here TR = 0.72 s). Our results reinforce the mechanistic scenario that resting-state networks are the expression of erratic excursions from a baseline synchronous steady state into weakly-stable partially-synchronized states - which we term ghost attractors. To better understand the rules governing the transitions between ghost attractors, we use methods from dynamical systems theory, giving insights into high-order mechanisms underlying brain function.