Characterising neural plasticity at the single patient level using connectivity fingerprints.
Voets NL., Parker Jones O., Mars RB., Adcock JE., Stacey R., Apostolopoulos V., Plaha P.
The occurrence of wide-scale neuroplasticity in the injured human brain raises hopes for biomarkers to guide personalised treatment. At the individual level, functional reorganisation has proven challenging to quantify using current techniques that are optimised for population-based analyses. In this cross-sectional study, we acquired functional MRI scans in 44 patients (22 men, 22 women, mean age: 39.4 ± 14 years) with a language-dominant hemisphere brain tumour prior to surgery and 23 healthy volunteers (11 men, 12 women, mean age: 36.3 ± 10.9 years) during performance of a verbal fluency task. We applied a recently developed approach to characterise the normal range of functional connectivity patterns during task performance in healthy controls. Next, we statistically quantified differences from the normal in individual patients and evaluated factors driving these differences. We show that the functional connectivity of brain regions involved in language fluency identifies "fingerprints" of brain plasticity in individual patients, not detected using standard task-evoked analyses. In contrast to healthy controls, patients with a tumour in their language dominant hemisphere showed highly variable fingerprints that uniquely distinguished individuals. Atypical fingerprints were influenced by tumour grade and tumour location relative to the typical fluency-activated network. Our findings show how alterations in brain networks can be visualised and statistically quantified from connectivity fingerprints in individual brains. We propose that connectivity fingerprints offer a statistical metric of individually-specific network organisation through which behaviourally-relevant adaptations could be formally quantified and monitored across individuals, treatments and time.