Testing the significance of connectivity networks: Comparison of different assessing procedures

Jlenia Toppi, Donatella Mattia, Monica Risetti, Rita Formisano, Fabio Babiloni, Laura Astolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the well-established use of partial directed coherence (PDC) to estimate interactions between brain signals, the assessment of its statistical significance still remains controversial. Commonly used approaches are based on the generation of empirical distributions of the null case, implying a considerable computational time, which may become a serious limitation in practical applications. Recently, rigorous asymptotic distributions for PDC were proposed. The aim of this work is to compare the performances of the asymptotic statistics with those of an empirical approach, in terms of both accuracy and computational time. Methods: Indices of performance were derived for the two approaches by a simulation study implementing different ground-truth networks under different levels of signal-to-noise ratio and amount of data available for the estimate. The two approaches were then applied to the resting-state EEG data acquired in a group of minimally conscious state and vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome patients. Results: The performances of the asymptotic statistics in simulations matched those obtained by the empirical approach, with a considerable reduction of the computational time. Results of the application to real data showed that the asymptotic statistics led to the extraction of connectivity-based indices able to discriminate patients in different disorders of consciousness conditions and to correlate significantly with clinical scales. Such results were similar to those obtained by the empirical assessment, but with a considerable time economy. Significance: Asymptotic statistics provide an approach to the assessment of PDC significance with comparable performances with respect to the previously used empirical approaches but with a substantial advantage in terms of computational time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7707367
Pages (from-to)2461-2473
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Asymptotic statistics
  • causal Fourier transform (FT) shuffling
  • connectivity
  • disorders of consciousness (DoC)
  • partial directed coherence (PDC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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