Functional connectivity derived from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used as an effective way to assess brain architecture. There has been a growing interest in its application to the study of intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs) during different brain development stages. fMRI data are of high dimension but small sample size, and it is crucial to perform dimension reduction before pattern analysis of ICNs. Feature selection is thus used to reduce redundancy, lower the complexity of learning, and enhance the interpretability. To study the varying patterns of ICNs in different brain development stages, we propose a two-step feature selection method. First, an improved support vector machine based recursive feature elimination method is utilized to study the differences of connectivity during development. To further reduce the highly correlated features, a combination of F-score and correlation score is applied. This method was then applied to analysis of the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC) data. The two-step feature selection was randomly performed 20 times, and those features that showed up consistently in the experiments were chosen as the essential ICN differences between different brain ages. Our results indicate that ICN differences exist in brain development, and they are related to task control, cognition, information processing, attention, and other brain functions. In particular, compared with children, young adults exhibit increasing functional connectivity in the sensory/somatomotor network, cingulo-opercular task control network, visual network, and some other subnetworks. In addition, the connectivity in young adults decreases between the default mode network and other subnetworks such as the fronto-parietal task control network. The results are coincident with the fact that the connectivity within the brain alters from segregation to integration as an individual grows.
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