Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Stable and dynamic EEG and fMRI functional connectivity patterns and their relation to individual differences

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
3.03.00  Medical sciences  Neurobiology   

Code Science Field
B640  Biomedical sciences  Neurology, neuropsychology, neurophysiology 

Code Science Field
3.01  Medical and Health Sciences  Basic medicine 
functional connectivity, multimodal brain imaging, EEG, functional MR imaging, individual differences, psychopathology, neurodegenerative diseases
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (20)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  18463  PhD Andreja Avsec  Psychology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  275 
2.  34576  PhD Rok Berlot  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  96 
3.  33621  PhD Jurij Bon  Psychiatry  Researcher  2017 - 2020  151 
4.  50832  Mark Floyd Bračič  Psychology  Researcher  2018 - 2019  23 
5.  09182  PhD Valentin Bucik  Psychology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  650 
6.  37645  PhD Jure Demšar  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2019 - 2020  74 
7.  30072  PhD Maja Kojović  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  124 
8.  21239  PhD Blaž Koritnik  Medical sciences  Researcher  2017 - 2020  261 
9.  50304  Aleksij Kraljič  Neurobiology  Technician  2017 - 2020  15 
10.  38946  Andraž Matkovič  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  49 
11.  52729  Tjaša Mlinarič  Interdisciplinary research  Researcher  2019 - 2020 
12.  39010  Ruben Perellon Alfonso  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2018 
13.  05380  PhD Zvezdan Pirtošek  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  728 
14.  18919  PhD Anja Podlesek  Psychology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  504 
15.  37430  PhD Vida Ana Politakis  Psychology  Junior researcher  2017 - 2020  25 
16.  17893  PhD Grega Repovš  Psychology  Principal Researcher  2017 - 2020  477 
17.  36162  PhD Anka Slana Ozimič  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  115 
18.  07002  PhD Dušan Šuput  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  423 
19.  26268  PhD Andrej Vovk  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  46 
20.  39636  PhD Gaja Zager Kocjan  Psychology  Researcher  2018 - 2020  107 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0312  University Medical Centre Ljubljana  Ljubljana  5057272000  73,362 
2.  0381  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine  Ljubljana  1627066  44,779 
3.  0581  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts  Ljubljana  1627058  95,020 
Since human brain imaging research has shifted its focus from efforts to localise individual cognitive processes and related brain regions to the study of integration of brain function, fMRI functional connectivity research has provided a wealth of information on how multiple brain regions across the brain connect to form complex networks and systems. Numerous studies have explored how functional brain networks relate to cognitive processes, intellectual abilities, brain development and maturation, and addressed the question, what patterns of functional brain networks dysconnectivity underlie psychiatric diseases and reflect the progress of neuropathology in neurodegenerative diseases.  Exploration of fMRI functional brain connectivity is though facing a number of obstacles that will have to be resolved to allow substantive further progress. One is a lack of understanding of the neuronal mechanisms and dynamic that give rise to functional connectivity as estimated by observing slowly evolving BOLD signal. A promising approach is multimodal imaging, in which information of different modalities can be combined to provide novel insights. One such possibility is the integration of fMRI and EEG signals. Whereas fMRI enables impressive spatial resolution it is impaired by its low temporal resolution. Integration with the EEG signal, directly tracking neuronal activity with high temporal precision, could enable the much needed understanding of the mechanisms giving rise to fMRI functional connectivity, and jointly provide spatially well specified estimates of functional connectivity with high temporal resolution. Another significant challenge is the extent to which transient changes in mood and psycho-physical state impact individual’s functional connectivity results. Whereas in group level analyses these effect—if random—can average out, at the individual level, though, they can mask the information relevant for the assessment of individual’s cognition or presence of neuropathology, reducing the reliability and validity of use of functional connectivity as a diagnostic tool.  The aim of the proposed project is to address these two questions through completion of four goals. First, to gain detailed understanding of spatiotemporal properties of large scale brain networks through integration of EEG and fMRI signals acquired during rest and task. Second, to explore the longitudinal variability in spatiotemporal network properties as reflected in EEG and fMRI signals at both rest and task, and test the stability of identified brain networks and their properties. Third, to examine, how both inter- and intra-individual differences relate to the stability of brain networks as assessed by EEG and fMRI at both rest and task. Fourth, to explore to what extent patterns of functional dysconnectivity overlap with stable and variable properties of brain networks, and apply these findings to the use of functional connectivity in diagnosis and monitoring of neuropathology of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. To realise the first three goals we plan to collect concurrent EEG and fMRI data at multiple sessions in a smaller homogenous sample of 30-40 young adults and a larger heterogenous sample of 60-70 participants. For the completion of the last goal, we will use a large sample (over 2400 participants) of previously collected MR data of individuals with different psychiatric diseases and their healthy controls, and a sample of over 1000 participants with different levels of neurodegenerative impairment, and their controls.  The project is planned to progress over three stages, each addressing specific set of research questions and combining development of preprocessing and analysis tools, data collection, and data analysis efforts. The proposed research team consists of experts in the relevant fields and has access to all the necessary resources for data collection and analysis, ensuring efficient and successful completion of the
Significance for science
Studies of fMRI and more recently also EEG functional connectivity are becoming a key research tool in cognitive neuroscience and open the possibilities of significant contribution to development of neurobiological markers for diagnosis and monitoring of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. Their further development will depend on understanding and validation of information provided by each of the two modalities as well as their integration. The proposed research will address a significant void in understanding of functional connectivity through five key original and relevant contributions. First, the proposed research will present the first systematic study of stability and variability of functional connectivity of brain networks with the aim of identifying those components and properties that are most relevant for the study of relationship between functional brain integration, individual differences and brain diseases. Their specification will allow important advancements in the development of neurobiological markers, primarily their robustness and reliability. Second, whereas the majority of studies of functional connectivity focus on rest, the proposed research will enable more detailed understanding of the relationship between functional connectivity at rest and during task and assessment of their respective advantages both in research as well as in development of neurobiological markers. Third, the proposed research extends the previous methodological efforts in identifying the EEG-fMRI functional connectivity relationship by exploring how stable and variable properties of functional brain networks relate to intra- and inter-individual differences, enabling important substantial insights as well as more extensive assessment and validation of methodological findings. Fourth, the size of the planned sample represents an important methodological advancement compared to existing studies of simultaneous EEG-fMRI data acquisition that mostly include 10 participants. The planned sample will enable a qualitative leap in addressing the proposed research questions and offer a rich reference dataset for further research as well as methods and analytical tool development. Fifth, by transfer of findings to support the efforts for identification of patterns of functional (dys)connectivity related to pathological processes in psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, the project will contribute substantially to more efficient discovery, validation, and understanding of neuropathological markers. Jointly, the proposed research will enable significant advancements in the understanding of mechanisms underlying EEG and fMRI functional connectivity, providing important bases for further research and application. Acquired knowledge will lead to better understanding of functional connectivity and inter-individual differences, it will stimulate new research of potential markers of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.
Significance for the country
Existing studies have demonstrated a significant potential of functional connectivity as a tool for the assessment of individual’s properties and cognitive abilities as well as identification of risk, diagnosis and monitoring of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, which due to a lack of understanding of the core mechanisms and nature of functional connectivity has not yet been fully realised. A better understanding of functional connectivity bases and optimisation of its use provides not only a substantial contribution to research efforts but also opens up novel opportunities of its use in business activities, and healthcare. From business perspective the expected findings of the project will enable development of novel instruments for assessment and development of cognitive abilities and individual differences profiles. These can be used either alone or in combination with the existing psychological instruments. Specifically, we envision three possible target users. First, individuals interested in obtaining their individual profile. Second, companies that offer programmes of attentional, cognitive, or general psycho-motor abilities training and/or rehabilitation. These would benefit from the ability to monitor the progress of individuals, as well as the ability to evaluate and select training programmes that result in measurable effects, and abandon those that don’t. The third group are businesses that would wish to use such instruments to supplement the existing tools and procedures for employment selection and monitoring the progress and wellbeing of employees. Within the context of general, health related impact for the economy and society, it has to be emphasised that brain diseases present the single biggest source of direct and indirect health costs in European union member states. The ability to identify risk, diagnose, and monitor psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases is a crucial prerequisite for development and efficacy assessment of different therapeutic and support activities. Neurodegenerative and some psychiatric diseases (e.g. schizophrenia) are currently untreatable and often diagnosed only in the late stages of the disease. The results of the proposed project would contribute substantially to the further development of the use of functional connectivity in support of identification of risk, early diagnosis and monitoring of psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. This would provide a significant contribution to development and optimisation of therapeutic procedures, treatment efficacy, and support activities, and with that to reduction of direct and indirect health costs, and improved quality of life of both patients and their caregivers. In summary, the project can contribute substantially to the development of novel services, support of business activities and treatment of brain diseases, which presents a direct and long-term contribution to economy, quality of life of individuals and the society as a whole.
Most important scientific results Final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Final report
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