Graph Theoretical Characteristics of EEG-Based Functional Brain Networks in Patients With Epilepsy: The Effect of Reference Choice and Volume Conduction

Maria N. Anastasiadou, Manolis Christodoulakis, Eleftherios S. Papathanasiou, Savvas S. Papacostas, Avgis Hadjipapas, Georgios D. Mitsis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


It is well-established that both volume conduction and the choice of recording reference (montage) affect the correlation measures obtained from scalp EEG, both in the time and frequency domains. As a result, a number of correlation measures have been proposed aiming to reduce these effects. In our previous work, we have showed that scalp-EEG based functional brain networks in patients with epilepsy exhibit clear periodic patterns at different time scales and that these patterns are strongly correlated to seizure onset, particularly at shorter time scales (around 3 and 5 h), which has important clinical implications. In the present work, we use the same long-duration clinical scalp EEG data (multiple days) to investigate the extent to which the aforementioned results are affected by the choice of reference choice and correlation measure, by considering several widely used montages as well as correlation metrics that are differentially sensitive to the effects of volume conduction. Specifically, we compare two standard and commonly used linear correlation measures, cross-correlation in the time domain, and coherence in the frequency domain, with measures that account for zero-lag correlations: corrected cross-correlation, imaginary coherence, phase lag index, and weighted phase lag index. We show that the graphs constructed with corrected cross-correlation and WPLI are more stable across different choices of reference. Also, we demonstrate that all the examined correlation measures revealed similar periodic patterns in the obtained graph measures when the bipolar and common reference (Cz) montage were used. This includes circadian-related periodicities (e.g., a clear increase in connectivity during sleep periods as compared to awake periods), as well as periodicities at shorter time scales (around 3 and 5 h). On the other hand, these results were affected to a large degree when the average reference montage was used in combination with standard cross-correlation, coherence, imaginary coherence, and PLI, which is likely due to the low number of electrodes and inadequate electrode coverage of the scalp. Finally, we demonstrate that the correlation between seizure onset and the brain network periodicities is preserved when corrected cross-correlation and WPLI were used for all the examined montages. This suggests that, even in the standard clinical setting of EEG recording in epilepsy where only a limited number of scalp EEG measurements are available, graph-theoretic quantification of periodic patterns using appropriate montage, and correlation measures corrected for volume conduction provides useful insights into seizure onset.

Original languageEnglish
Article number221
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • epilepsy
  • graph theory
  • montage
  • periodicities
  • scalp EEG
  • volume conduction


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