We demonstrate a data-driven approach for calculating a “causal connectome” of directed connectivity from resting-state fMRI data using a greedy adjacency search and pairwise non-Gaussian edge orientations. We used this approach to construct n = 442 causal connectomes. These connectomes were very sparse in comparison to typical Pearson correlation-based graphs (roughly 2.25% edge density) yet were fully connected in nearly all cases. Prominent highly connected hubs of the causal connectome were situated in attentional (dorsal attention) and executive (frontoparietal and cingulo-opercular) networks. These hub networks had distinctly different connectivity profiles: attentional networks shared incoming connections with sensory regions and outgoing connections with higher cognitive networks, while executive networks primarily connected to other higher cognitive networks and had a high degree of bidirected connectivity. Virtual lesion analyses accentuated these findings, demonstrating that attentional and executive hub networks are points of critical vulnerability in the human causal connectome. These data highlight the central role of attention and executive control networks in the human cortical connectome and set the stage for future applications of data-driven causal connectivity analysis in psychiatry.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Data were provided by the Human Connectome Project, WU-Minn Consortium (Principal Investigators: David Van Essen and Kamil Ugurbil; 1U54MH091657) funded by the 16 NIH Institutes and Centers that support the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research; and by the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience at Washington University. ER is supported by a postdoctoral training grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health ( T32-MH115866 ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Mental Health.
- Causal discovery
- Effective connectivity