Comparison of structural covariance with functional connectivity approaches exemplified by an investigation of the left anterior insula.

Clos M, Rottschy C, Laird AR, Fox PT, Eickhoff SB, Neuroimage 99 :269-80 (2014).


The anterior insula is a multifunctional region involved in various cognitive, perceptual and socio-emotional processes. In particular, a portion of the left anterior insula is closely associated with working memory processes in healthy participants and shows gray matter reduction in schizophrenia. To unravel the functional networks related to this left anterior insula region, we here combined resting state connectivity, meta-analytic-connectivity modeling (MACM) and structural covariance (SC) in addition to functional characterization based on BrainMap meta-data. Apart from allowing new insight into the seed region, this approach moreover provided an opportunity to systematically compare these different connectivity approaches. The results showed that the left anterior insula has a broad response profile and is part of multiple functional networks including language, memory and socio-emotional networks. As all these domains are linked with several symptoms of schizophrenia, dysfunction of the left anterior insula might be a crucial component contributing to this disorder. Moreover, although converging connectivity across all three connectivity approaches for the left anterior insula were found, also striking differences were observed. RS and MACM as functional connectivity approaches specifically revealed functional networks linked with internal cognition and active perceptual/language processes, respectively. SC, in turn, showed a clear preference for highlighting regions involved in social cognition. These differential connectivity results thus indicate that the use of multiple forms of connectivity is advantageous when investigating functional networks as conceptual differences between these approaches might lead to systematic variation in the revealed functional networks.