The epidemic spreading model and the direction of information flow in brain networks

J. Meier*, X. Zhou, A. Hillebrand, P. Tewarie, C. J. Stam, P. Van Mieghem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The interplay between structural connections and emerging information flow in the human brain remains an open research problem. A recent study observed global patterns of directional information flow in empirical data using the measure of transfer entropy. For higher frequency bands, the overall direction of information flow was from posterior to anterior regions whereas an anterior-to-posterior pattern was observed in lower frequency bands. In this study, we applied a simple Susceptible-Infected-Susceptible (SIS) epidemic spreading model on the human connectome with the aim to reveal the topological properties of the structural network that give rise to these global patterns. We found that direct structural connections induced higher transfer entropy between two brain regions and that transfer entropy decreased with increasing distance between nodes (in terms of hops in the structural network). Applying the SIS model, we were able to confirm the empirically observed opposite information flow patterns and posterior hubs in the structural network seem to play a dominant role in the network dynamics. For small time scales, when these hubs acted as strong receivers of information, the global pattern of information flow was in the posterior-to-anterior direction and in the opposite direction when they were strong senders. Our analysis suggests that these global patterns of directional information flow are the result of an unequal spatial distribution of the structural degree between posterior and anterior regions and their directions seem to be linked to different time scales of the spreading process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-646
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain networks
  • Effective connectivity
  • Global patterns
  • Information flow
  • SIS model
  • Transfer entropy
  • n/a OA procedure


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