Functional connectivity (FC) describes the statistical dependence between brain regions in resting-state fMRI studies and is usually estimated as the Pearson correlation of time courses. Clustering reveals densely coupled sets of regions constituting a set of resting-state networks or functional systems. These systems manifest most clearly when FC is sampled over longer epochs lasting many minutes but appear to fluctuate on shorter time scales. Here, we propose a new approach to track these temporal fluctuations. Un-wrapping FC signal correlations yields pairwise co-fluctuation time series, one for each node pair/edge, and reveals fine-scale dynamics across the network. Co-fluctuations partition the network, at each time step, into exactly two communities. Sampled over time, the overlay of these bipartitions, a binary decomposition of the original time series, very closely approximates functional connectivity. Bipartitions exhibit characteristic spatiotemporal patterns that are reproducible across participants and imaging sessions and disclose fine-scale profiles of the time-varying levels of expression of functional systems. Our findings document that functional systems appear transiently and intermittently, and that FC results from the overlay of many variable instances of system expression. Potential applications of this decomposition of functional connectivity into a set of binary patterns are discussed.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience