Spatial embedding and wiring cost constrain the functional layout of the cortical network of rodents and primates

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PLoS Biology, 14(7), e1002512. Public Library of Science (2016) .

Public Library of Science


Mammals show a wide range of brain sizes, reflecting adaptation to diverse habitats. Comparing interareal cortical networks across brains of different sizes and mammalian orders provides robust information on evolutionarily preserved features and species-specific processing modalities. However, these networks are spatially embedded, directed, and weighted, making comparisons challenging. Using tract tracing data from macaque and mouse, we show the existence of a general organizational principle based on an exponential distance rule (EDR) and cortical geometry, enabling network comparisons within the same model framework. These comparisons reveal the existence of network invariants between mouse and macaque, exemplified in graph motif profiles and connection similarity indices, but also significant differences, such as fractionally smaller and much weaker long-distance connections in the macaque than in mouse. The latter lends credence to the prediction that long-distance cortico-cortical connections could be very weak in the much-expanded human cortex, implying an increased susceptibility to disconnection syndromes such as Alzheimer disease and schizophrenia. Finally, our data from tracer experiments involving only gray matter connections in the primary visual areas of both species show that an EDR holds at local scales as well (within 1.5 mm), supporting the hypothesis that it is a universally valid property across all scales and, possibly, across the mammalian class.

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