This paper introduces a method to study the variation of brain functional connectivity networks with respect to experimental conditions in fMRI data. It is related to the psychophysiological interaction technique introduced by Friston et al. and extends to networks of correlation modulation (CM networks). Extended networks containing several dozens of nodes are determined in which the links correspond to consistent correlation modulation across subjects. In addition, we assess inter-subject variability and determine networks in which the condition-dependent functional interactions can be explained by a subject-dependent variable. We applied the technique to data from a study on syntactical production in bilinguals and analysed functional interactions differentially across tasks (word reading or sentence production) and across languages. We find an extended network of consistent functional interaction modulation across tasks, whereas the network comparing languages shows fewer links. Interestingly, there is evidence for a specific network in which the differences in functional interaction across subjects can be explained by differences in the subjects' syntactical proficiency. Specifically, we find that regions, including ones that have previously been shown to be involved in syntax and in language production, such as the left inferior frontal gyrus, putamen, insula, precentral gyrus, as well as the supplementary motor area, are more functionally linked during sentence production in the second, compared with the first, language in syntactically more proficient bilinguals than in syntactically less proficient ones. Our approach extends conventional activation analyses to the notion of networks, emphasizing functional interactions between regions independently of whether or not they are activated. On the one hand, it gives rise to testable hypotheses and allows an interpretation of the results in terms of the previous literature, and on the other hand, it provides a basis for studying the structure of functional interactions as a whole, and hence represents a further step towards the notion of large-scale networks in functional imaging.
- © 2005 The Royal Society