The bridge between cognition and behavior in acquired brain injury: A graph theoretical approach

Frank Jonker*, Wouter Weeda, Kim Rauwerda, Erik Scherder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The assumption is that executive dysfunctions (EF), associated with frontal lobe injury, are responsible for behavioral disturbances. Some studies do not find a relationship between EF and behavior following frontal lobe lesions. Our main goal of this study was to use a novel statistical method, graph theory, to analyze this relationship in different brain injury groups; frontal lobe damage, non-frontal lobe damage, and controls. Within the frontal group, we expect to find a pattern of executive nodes that are highly interconnected. Methods: For each group, we modeled the relationship between executive functions and behavior as a network of interdependent variables. The cognitive tests and the behavioral questionnaire are the “nodes” in the network, while the relationships between the nodes were modeled as the correlations between two nodes corrected for the correlation with all other nodes in the network. Sparse networks were estimated within each group using graphical LASSO. We analyzed the relative importance of the nodes within a network (centrality) and the clustering (modularity) of the different nodes. Results: Network analysis showed distinct patterns of relationships between EF and behavior in the three subgroups. The performance on the verbal learning test is the most central node in all the networks. In the frontal group, verbal memory forms a community with working memory and fluency. The behavioral nodes do not differentiate between groups or form clusters with cognitive nodes. No other communities were found for cognitive and behavioral nodes. Conclusion: The cognitive phenotype of the frontal lobe damaged group, with its stability and proportion, might be theoretically interpreted as a potential “buffer” for possible cognitive executive deficits. This might explain some of the ambiguity found in the literature. This alternative approach on cognitive test scores provides a different and possibly complimentary perspective of the neuropsychology of brain-injured patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01208
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date6 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • behavior
  • brain Injury
  • executive functions
  • frontal lobe
  • graph theory


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