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Discovering Brain Mechanisms Using Network Analysis and Causal Modeling

Colombo, Matteo and Weinberger, Naftali (2017) Discovering Brain Mechanisms Using Network Analysis and Causal Modeling. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Mechanist philosophers have examined several strategies scientists use for discovering causal mechanisms in neuroscience. Findings about the anatomical organization of the brain play a central role in several such strategies. Little attention has been paid, however, to the use of network analysis and causal modeling techniques for mechanism discovery. In particular, mechanist philosophers have not explored whether and how these strategies incorporate information about the anatomical organization of the brain. This paper clarifies these issues in the light of the distinction between structural, functional and effective connectivity. Specifically, we examine two quantitative strategies currently used for causal discovery from functional neuroimaging data: dynamic causal modeling and probabilistic graphical modeling. We show that dynamic causal modeling uses findings about the brain’s anatomical organization to improve the statistical estimation of parameters in an already specified causal model of the target brain mechanism. Probabilistic graphical modeling, in contrast, makes no appeal to the brain’s anatomical organization, but lays bare the conditions under which correlational data suffice to license reliable inferences about the causal organization of a target brain mechanism. The question of whether findings about the anatomical organization of the brain can and should constrain the inference of causal networks remains open, but we show how the tools supplied by graphical modeling methods help in addressing it.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Colombo, Matteom.colombo@uvt.nl
Weinberger, Naftalinaftali.weinberger@gmail.com
Additional Information: To Appear in Minds and Machines
Keywords: Brain Connectivity; fMRI; Causation; Network Models; Mechanisms; Causal Modeling;
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
Depositing User: Mr. Naftali Weinberger
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2017 17:55
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 17:55
Item ID: 13439
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Experimentation
Date: 14 September 2017
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/13439

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