Brains also have a rich club

Brains also have a rich club

“We’ve known...that the brain has some regions that are ‘rich’ in the sense of being highly connected to many other parts of the brain,” said Olaf Sporns, professor in brain sciences at the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences.

“It now turns out that these regions are not only individually rich, they are forming a ‘rich club.’ They are strongly linked to each other, exchanging information and collaborating,” added Sporns, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.

“You sort of wonder what they’re talking about when they’re communicating with each other,” he said. “All these regions are getting all kinds of highly processed information, from virtually all parts of the brain,” said Sporns, according to an Indiana statement.

The rich club might be the “G8 summit of our brain,” said Martijn van den Heuvel, professor at the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Utrecht, The Netherlands, who co-write the study.

“It’s a group of highly influential regions that keep each other informed and likely collaborate on issues that concern whole brain functioning,” said Sporn. “Figuring out what is discussed at this summit might be an important step in understanding how our brain works.”

The research is part of an ongoing intensive effort to map the intricate networks of the human brain, casting the brain as an integrated dynamic system rather than a set of individual regions.

Using a form of MRI, van den Heuvel and Sporns examined the brains of a group of healthy men and women and mapped their large-scale network connectivity.

They found a group of 12 strongly interconnected hubs. Most of them are engaged in a wide range of complex behavioral and cognitive tasks, rather than more specialized processing such as vision and motor control.

If the brain network involving the rich club is disrupted or damaged, said Sporns, the negative impact would likely be disproportionate because of its central position in the network and the number of connections it contains.

Conversely, damage to regions outside of the rich club would likely cause specific impairments but would likely have little influence on the global flow of information throughout the brain.