Brain Parcellation Selection: An Overlooked Decision Point with Meaningful Effects on Individual Differences in Resting-State Functional Connectivity

Nessa V. Bryce, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
John C. Flournoy, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
João F. Guassi Moreira, University of California, Los Angeles
Maya L. Rosen, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Kelly A. Sambook, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Patrick Mair, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Katie A. McLaughlin, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.


Over the past decade extensive research has examined the segregation of the human brain into large-scale functional networks. The resulting network maps, i.e. parcellations, are now commonly used for the a priori identification of functional networks. However, the use of these parcellations, particularly in developmental and clinical samples, hinges on four fundamental assumptions: (1) the various parcellations are equally able to recover the networks of interest; (2) adult-derived parcellations well represent the networks in children's brains; (3) network properties, such as within-network connectivity, are reliably measured across parcellations; and (4) parcellation selection does not impact the results with regard to individual differences in given network properties. In the present study we examined these assumptions using eight common parcellation schemes in two independent developmental samples. We found that the parcellations are equally able to capture networks of interest in both children and adults. However, networks bearing the same name across parcellations (e.g., default network) do not produce reliable within-network measures of functional connectivity. Critically, parcellation selection significantly impacted the magnitude of associations of functional connectivity with age, poverty, and cognitive ability, producing meaningful differences in interpretation of individual differences in functional connectivity based on parcellation choice. Our findings suggest that work employing parcellations may benefit from the use of multiple schemes to confirm the robustness and generalizability of results. Furthermore, researchers looking to gain insight into functional networks may benefit from employing more nuanced network identification approaches such as using densely-sampled data to produce individual-derived network parcellations. A transition towards precision neuroscience will provide new avenues in the characterization of functional brain organization across development and within clinical populations.