Manning JR, Ranganath R, Norman KA, Blei DA (2014). Topographic Factor Analysis: a Bayesian model for inferring brain networks from neural data. PLoS One, 9(5): e94914.

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The neural patterns recorded during a neuroscientific experiment reflect complex interactions between many brain regions, each comprising millions of neurons. However, the measurements themselves are typically abstracted from that underlying structure. For example, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) datasets comprise a time series of three-dimensional images, where each voxel in an image (roughly) reflects the activity of the brain structure(s)–located at the corresponding point in space–at the time the image was collected. FMRI data often exhibit strong spatial correlations, whereby nearby voxels behave similarly over time as the underlying brain structure modulates its activity. Here we develop topographic factor analysis (TFA), a technique that exploits spatial correlations in fMRI data to recover the underlying structure that the images reflect. Specifically, TFA casts each brain image as a weighted sum of spatial functions. The parameters of those spatial functions, which may be learned by applying TFA to an fMRI dataset, reveal the locations and sizes of the brain structures activated while the data were collected, as well as the interactions between those structures.