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In Figure 1 (shown below) of "Micro-Level Affect Dynamics in Psychopathology Viewed From Complex Dynamical System Theory" by Wichers et al, they claim that the emotional/affective dynamics of networks of mentally ill individuals are more highly connected than healthy controls. These highly connected networks are more sensitive to perturbations.

emotion network models

How are these networks generated? What are the meaning behind the N variables?

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The networks are a stand-in for a variety of networks coming from various publications with roughly the same shape. For example, these networks from "Emotion-Network Density in Major Depressive Disorder" comparing the causal interaction between different states for those with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Healthy Controls (CTL) in various affective situations:

simple network

As well as these networks from "Exploring the underlying structure of mental disorders: cross-diagnostic differences and similarities from a network perspective using both a top-down and a bottom-up approach" doing the same comparison:

advanced network

The method for creating these networks is covered in detail in "A Network Approach to Psychopathology: New Insights into Clinical Longitudinal Data".

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