Finding imaging patterns of structural covariance via Non-Negative Matrix Factorization

Aristeidis Sotiras, Susan M. Resnick, Christos Davatzikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


In this paper, we investigate the use of Non-Negative Matrix Factorization (NNMF) for the analysis of structural neuroimaging data. The goal is to identify the brain regions that co-vary across individuals in a consistent way, hence potentially being part of underlying brain networks or otherwise influenced by underlying common mechanisms such as genetics and pathologies. NNMF offers a directly data-driven way of extracting relatively localized co-varying structural regions, thereby transcending limitations of Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Independent Component Analysis (ICA) and other related methods that tend to produce dispersed components of positive and negative loadings. In particular, leveraging upon the well known ability of NNMF to produce parts-based representations of image data, we derive decompositions that partition the brain into regions that vary in consistent ways across individuals. Importantly, these decompositions achieve dimensionality reduction via highly interpretable ways and generalize well to new data as shown via split-sample experiments. We empirically validate NNMF in two data sets: i) a Diffusion Tensor (DT) mouse brain development study, and ii) a structural Magnetic Resonance (sMR) study of human brain aging. We demonstrate the ability of NNMF to produce sparse parts-based representations of the data at various resolutions. These representations seem to follow what we know about the underlying functional organization of the brain and also capture some pathological processes. Moreover, we show that these low dimensional representations favorably compare to descriptions obtained with more commonly used matrix factorization methods like PCA and ICA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Data analysis
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • Gray matter
  • Independent Component Analysis
  • Non-Negative Matrix Factorization
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Structural covariance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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