fMRI Method Reveals Brain's Complex Network -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

The findings of Dante R. Chialvo, research associate professor of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and his colleagues opens new possibilities for future basic and applied studies to investigate the dynamics of brain states without requiring external markers.

Chialvo and colleagues described how fMRIs from healthy individuals showed that tens of thousands of discrete brain regions form a network that has the same qualitative features as other complex networks, such as the Internet (technological), friendships (social) and metabolic (biochemical) networks. The fMRI technology provided, in each recording session, hundreds of consecutive images of brain activity discretized in thousands of tiny cubes (voxels). The image intensity at each cube usually indicates the amount of brain activity at that site.

The investigators then calculated the degree of correlation between the activities among the tens of thousands of brain regions. Through their computations, the group discovered which brain regions were momentarily linked in a network.

When they further analyzed the structure of these networks, they saw a familiar picture: Brain networks share the features of other complex networks, such as the Internet: Very few "jumps" were necessary for connecting any two nodes.

The second common characteristic the researchers found was a strong "in-homogeneity" -- many nodes had few connections and a very few nodes connected with many others. These "super-connected" nodes act as hubs, providing the networks with fast transmission of information. "Overall, our initial results indicate that the brain networks share these two fundamental properties, implying that the underlying properties can be understood using the theoretical framework already advanced in the study of other, disparate, networks," Chialvo said.; Source: Northwestern University