Neil Gallagher, Kafui Dzirasa, David Carlson
Systems neuroscience aims to understand how networks of neurons distributed throughout the brain mediate computational tasks. One popular approach to identify those networks is to first calculate measures of neural activity (e.g. power spectra) from multiple brain regions, and then apply a linear factor model to those measures. Critically, despite the established role of directed communication between brain regions in neural computation, measures of directed communication have been rarely utilized in network estimation because they are incompatible with the implicit assumptions of the linear factor model approach. Here, we develop a novel spectral measure of directed communication called the Directed Spectrum (DS). We prove that it is compatible with the implicit assumptions of linear factor models, and we provide a method to estimate the DS. We demonstrate that latent linear factor models of DS measures better capture underlying brain networks in both simulated and real neural recording data compared to available alternatives. Thus, linear factor models of the Directed Spectrum offer neuroscientists a simple and effective way to explicitly model directed communication in networks of neural populations.