Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Highways of the Brain: High-Cost and High-Capacity

20.06.2012
A new study proposes a communication routing strategy for the brain that mimics the American highway system, with the bulk of the traffic leaving the local and feeder neural pathways to spend as much time as possible on the longer, higher-capacity passages through an influential network of hubs, the so-called rich club.

The study, published this week online in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involves researchers from Indiana University and the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and advances their earlier findings that showed how select hubs in the brain not only are powerful in their own right but have numerous and strong connections between each other.

The current study characterizes the influential network within the rich club as the "backbone" for global brain communication. A costly network in terms of the energy and space consumed, said Olaf Sporns, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, but one with a big pay-off: providing quick and effective communication between billions and billions of brain cells.

"Until now, no one knew how central the brain's rich club really was," Sporns said. "It turns out the rich club is always right in the middle when it comes to how brain regions talk to each other. It absorbs, transforms and disseminates information. This underscores its importance for brain communication."

In earlier work, using diffusion imaging, the researchers found a group of 12 strongly interconnected bihemispheric hub regions, comprising the precuneus, superior frontal and superior parietal cortex, as well as the subcortical hippocampus, putamen and thalamus. Together, these regions form the brain's "rich club." Most of these areas are engaged in a wide range of complex behavioral and cognitive tasks, rather than more specialized processing such as vision and motor control.

For the current study, Martijn van den Heuvel, a professor at the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience at University Medical Center Utrecht, used diffusion tensor imaging data for two sets of 40 healthy subjects to map the large-scale connectivity structure of the brain. The cortical sheet was divided into 1,170 regions, and then pathways between the regions were reconstructed and measured. As in the previous study, the rich club nodes were widely distributed and had up to 40 percent more connectivity compared to other areas.

The connections measured -- almost 700,000 in total -- were classified in one of three ways: as rich club connections if they connected nodes within the rich club; as feeder connections if they connected a non-rich club node to a rich club node; and as local connections if they connected non-rich club nodes. Rich club connections made up the majority of all long-distance neural pathways. The study also found that connections classified as rich club connections were used more heavily for communication than other feeder and local connections. A path analysis showed that when a minimally short path is traced from one area of the brain to another, it travels through the rich club network 69 percent of the time, even though the network accounts for only 10 percent of the brain.

A common pattern in communication paths spanning long distances, Sporns said, was that such paths involved sequences of steps leading across local, feeder, rich club, feeder and back to local connections. In other words, he said, many communication paths first traveled toward the rich club before reaching their destinations.

"It is as if the rich club acts as an attractor for signal traffic in the brain," Sporns said. "It soaks up information which is then integrated and sent back out to the rest of the brain."

Van den Heuvel agreed.

"It's like a big 'neuronal magnet' for communication and information integration in our brains," he said. "Seeking out the rich club may offer a strategy for neurons and brain regions to find short communication paths across the brain, and might provide insight into how our brain manages to be so highly efficient."

From an evolutionary standpoint, it was important for the brain to minimize energy consumption and wiring volume, but if these were the only factors, there would be no rich club because of the extra resources it requires, Sporns said. The rich club is expensive, at least in terms of wiring volume, and perhaps also in terms of metabolic cost. The trade-off for higher cost, Sporns said, is higher performance -- the integration of diverse signals and the ability to select short paths across the network.

"Brain neurons don't have maps; how do they find paths to get in touch? Perhaps the rich club helps with this, offering the brain's neurons and regions a way to communicate efficiently based on a routing strategy that involves the rich club."

People use related strategies to navigate social networks.

"Strangely, neurons may solve their communication problems just like the people to which they belong," Sporns said.

Co-authors of "High-cost, high-capacity backbone for global brain communication" are Rene S. Kahn, University Medical Center, Utrecht; and Joaquin Goni, Indiana University.

Van den Heuvel was supported by a Fellowship of the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience and by the Dutch Brain foundation. Sporns and Goñi were supported by the JS McDonnell Foundation.

A copy of the study is available through Eurekalert. For additional assistance, contact Tracy James, IU Communications, at 812-855-0084 or traljame@iu.edu.

Sporns can be reached at 812-855-2772 or osporns@indiana.edu. Van den Heuvel can be reached at 31 88-75-58244 or m.p.vandenheuvel@umcutrecht.nl

Tracy James | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.iu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Self-organising system enables motile cells to form complex search pattern
07.05.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht Mouse studies show minimally invasive route can accurately administer drugs to brain
02.05.2019 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Discovering unusual structures from exception using big data and machine learning techniques

17.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

ALMA discovers aluminum around young star

17.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

A new iron-based superconductor stabilized by inter-block charger transfer

17.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>