5 years ago

A study of problems encountered in Granger causality analysis from a neuroscience perspective [Statistics]

A study of problems encountered in Granger causality analysis from a neuroscience perspective [Statistics]
Patrick L. Purdon, Patrick A. Stokes

Granger causality methods were developed to analyze the flow of information between time series. These methods have become more widely applied in neuroscience. Frequency-domain causality measures, such as those of Geweke, as well as multivariate methods, have particular appeal in neuroscience due to the prevalence of oscillatory phenomena and highly multivariate experimental recordings. Despite its widespread application in many fields, there are ongoing concerns regarding the applicability of Granger causality methods in neuroscience. When are these methods appropriate? How reliably do they recover the system structure underlying the observed data? What do frequency-domain causality measures tell us about the functional properties of oscillatory neural systems? In this paper, we analyze fundamental properties of Granger–Geweke (GG) causality, both computational and conceptual. Specifically, we show that (i) GG causality estimates can be either severely biased or of high variance, both leading to spurious results; (ii) even if estimated correctly, GG causality estimates alone are not interpretable without examining the component behaviors of the system model; and (iii) GG causality ignores critical components of a system’s dynamics. Based on this analysis, we find that the notion of causality quantified is incompatible with the objectives of many neuroscience investigations, leading to highly counterintuitive and potentially misleading results. Through the analysis of these problems, we provide important conceptual clarification of GG causality, with implications for other related causality approaches and for the role of causality analyses in neuroscience as a whole.

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