An anatomical substrate for integration among functional networks in human cortex

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The human brain shows several characteristics of an efficient communication network architecture, including short communication paths and the existence of modules interlinked by a small set of highly connected regions. Studies of structural networks comprising macroscopic white matter projections have shown that these putative hubs are densely interconnected, giving rise to a spatially distributed and topologically central collective called the "rich club." In parallel, studies of intrinsic brain activity have consistently revealed distinct functional communities or resting-state networks (RSNs), indicative of specialized processing and segregation of neuronal information. However, the pattern of structural connectivity interconnecting these functional RSNs and how such inter-RSN structural connections might bring about functional integration between RSNs remain largely unknown. Combining high-resolution diffusion weighted imaging with resting-state fMRI, we present novel evidence suggesting that the rich club structure plays a central role in cross-linking macroscopic RSNs of the human brain. Rich club hub nodes were present in all functional networks, accounted for a large proportion of "connector nodes," and were found to coincide with regions in which multiple networks overlap. In addition, a large proportion of all inter-RSN connections were found to involve rich club nodes, and these connections participated in a disproportionate number of communication paths linking nodes in different RSNs. Our findings suggest that the brain's rich club serves as a macroscopic anatomical substrate to cross-link functional networks and thus plays an important role in the integration of information between segregated functional domains of the human cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14489-14500
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neuroscience
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2013

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