Local polymorphic delta activity in cortical lesions causes global decreases in functional connectivity

E van Dellen, A Hillebrand, L Douw, J J Heimans, J C Reijneveld, C J Stam
NeuroImage 2013, 83: 524-32
Increasing evidence from neuroimaging and modeling studies suggests that local lesions can give rise to global network changes in the human brain. These changes are often attributed to the disconnection of the lesioned areas. However, damaged brain areas may still be active, although the activity is altered. Here, we hypothesize that empirically observed global decreases in functional connectivity in patients with brain lesions can be explained by specific alterations of local neural activity that are the result of damaged tissue. We simulated local polymorphic delta activity (PDA), which typically characterizes EEG/MEG recordings of patients with cerebral lesions, in a realistic model of human brain activity. 78 neural masses were coupled according to the human structural brain network. Lesions were created by altering the parameters of individual neural masses in order to create PDA (i.e. simulating acute focal brain damage); combining this PDA with weakening of structural connections (i.e. simulating brain tumors), and fully deleting structural connections (i.e. simulating a full resection). Not only structural disconnection but also PDA in itself caused a global decrease in functional connectivity, similar to the observed alterations in MEG recordings of patients with PDA due to brain lesions. Interestingly, connectivity between regions that were not lesioned directly also changed. The impact of PDA depended on the network characteristics of the lesioned region in the structural connectome. This study shows for the first time that locally disturbed neural activity, i.e. PDA, may explain altered functional connectivity between remote areas, even when structural connections are unaffected. We suggest that focal brain lesions and the corresponding altered neural activity should be considered in the framework of the full functionally interacting brain network, implying that the impact of lesions reaches far beyond focal damage.

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