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Rich club organization supports a diverse set of functional network configurations

Publication year 2014
Published in NeuroImage
Authors Mario Senden, Gustavo Deco, Marcel A de Reus, R. Goebel, Martijn P van den Heuvel

Brain function relies on the flexible integration of a diverse set of segregated cortical modules, with the structural connectivity of the brain being a fundamentally important factor in shaping the brain’s functional dynamics. Following up on macroscopic studies showing the existence of centrally connected nodes in the mammalian brain, combined with the notion that these putative brain hubs may form a dense interconnected ‘rich club’ collective, we hypothesized that brain connectivity might involve a rich club type of architecture to promote a repertoire of different and flexibly accessible brain functions. With the rich club suggested to play an important role in global brain communication, examining the effects of a rich club organization on the functional repertoire of physical systems in general, and the brain in particular, is of keen interest. Here we elucidate these effects using a spin glass model of neural networks for simulating stable configurations of cortical activity. Using simulations, we show that the presence of a rich club increases the set of attractors and hence the diversity of the functional repertoire over and above the effects produced by scale free type topology alone. Within the networks’ overall functional repertoire rich nodes are shown to be important for enabling a high level of dynamic integrations of low-degree nodes to form functional networks. This suggests that the rich club serves as an important backbone for numerous co-activation patterns among peripheral nodes of the network. In addition, applying the spin glass model to empirical anatomical data of the human brain, we show that the positive effects on the functional repertoire attributed to the rich club phenomenon can be observed for the brain as well. We conclude that a rich club organization in network architectures may be crucial for the facilitation and integration of a diverse number of segregated functions.

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