The quantification of human brain functional (re)configurations across varying cognitive demands remains an unresolved topic. We propose that such functional configurations may be categorized into three different types: (a) network configural breadth, (b) task-to task transitional reconfiguration, and (c) within-task reconfiguration. Such functional reconfigurations are rather subtle at the whole-brain level. Hence, we propose a mesoscopic framework focused on functional networks (FNs) or communities to quantify functional (re)configurations. To do so, we introduce a 2D network morphospace that relies on two novel mesoscopic metrics, trapping efficiency (TE) and exit entropy (EE), which capture topology and integration of information within and between a reference set of FNs. We use this framework to quantify the network configural breadth across different tasks. We show that the metrics defining this morphospace can differentiate FNs, cognitive tasks, and subjects. We also show that network configural breadth significantly predicts behavioral measures, such as episodic memory, verbal episodic memory, fluid intelligence, and general intelligence. In essence, we put forth a framework to explore the cognitive space in a comprehensive manner, for each individual separately, and at different levels of granularity. This tool that can also quantify the FN reconfigurations that result from the brain switching between mental states.

Author Summary

Understanding and measuring the ways in which human brain connectivity changes to accommodate a broad range of cognitive and behavioral goals is an important undertaking. We put forth a mesoscopic framework that captures such changes by tracking the topology and integration of information within and between functional networks (FNs) of the brain. Canonically, when FNs are characterized, they are separated from the rest of the brain network. The two metrics proposed in this work, trapping efficiency and exit entropy, quantify the topological and information integration characteristics of FNs while they are still embedded in the overall brain network. Trapping efficiency measures the module’s ability to preserve an incoming signal from escaping its local topology, relative to its total exiting weights. Exit entropy measures the module’s communication preferences with other modules/networks using information theory. When these two metrics are plotted in a 2D graph as a function of different brain states (i.e., cognitive/behavioral tasks), the resulting morphospace characterizes the extent of network reconfiguration between tasks (functional reconfiguration), and the change when moving from rest to an externally engaged “task-positive” state (functional preconfiguration), to collectively define network configural breadth. We also show that these metrics are sensitive to subject, task, and functional network identities. Overall, this method is a promising approach to quantify how human brains adapt to a range of tasks, and potentially to help improve precision clinical neuroscience.

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Author notes

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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