Although brain network analysis in neurodegenerative disease is still a fairly young discipline, expectations are high. The robust theoretical basis, the straightforward detection and explanation of otherwise intangible complex system phenomena, and the correlations of network features with pathology and cognitive status are qualities that show the potential power of this new instrument. We expect "connectomics" to eventually better explain and predict that essential but still poorly understood aspect of dementia: the relation between pathology and cognitive symptoms. But at this point, our newly acquired knowledge has not yet translated into practical methods or applications in the medical field, and most doctors regard brain connectivity analysis as a wonderful but exotic research niche that is too technical and abstract to benefit patients directly. This article aims to provide a personal perspective on how brain connectivity research may get closer to obtaining a clinical role. I will argue that network intervention modeling, which unites the strengths of network analysis and computational modeling, is a great candidate for this purpose, as it can offer an attractive test environment in which positive and negative influences on network integrity can be explored, with the ultimate aim to find effective countermeasures against neurodegenerative network damage. The virtual trial approach might become what both dementia and connectivity researchers have been waiting for: a versatile tool that turns our growing connectome knowledge into clinical predictions.
- Computational modeling
- Graph theory