The brain has a complex architecture of functional networks as an information processing machinery. Is the architecture of the brain network itself the target of disease? If so, which networks are associated with which diseases? What can this tell us about the underlying causes of brain disorders?
Building on the extraordinary advancements in neuroscience over the past 30 years, researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio Health Sciences Center (UT Health San Antonio) published a study on 43 brain disorders – both psychiatric and neurological – and have firmly asserted a theory called the “network degeneration hypothesis”. According to this theory, disease-related structural damage invades the functional networks used in human behavior and also recapitulates within “co-alteration networks”.
By assessing the metabolic demand within these networks, the study postulated metabolic stress in high traffic hubs (“nodal stress”) as a key underlying cause of network-based degeneration.
The research, published March 8 in the Nature newspaper Communications biology, used BrainMap, a database of over 20,000 published functional and structural neuroimaging experiments. The Research Imaging Institute at UT Health San Antonio is the birthplace and academic home of BrainMap. Confirming the impact of the BrainMap project, the National Institutes of Health renewed funding for this work in April for an additional four years (years 14-17 of the project). This is a prize of $ 2.4 million.
the Communications biology The article was a meta-analysis of tens of thousands of experiments pulled from BrainMap’s database, said Peter T. Fox, MD, professor and director of the Research Imaging Institute. Dr Fox and his co-authors compared large-scale functional network connectivity models used in normal behaviors with disease-related co-alteration networks and found a striking overlap.
“The scope of the network’s structural and functional match is impressive,” said Dr. Fox. “Fourteen of the 20 spatially observed disease-related co-alteration networks conformed to functional networks involved in normal behaviors – such as movement, perception, emotion, language, problem solving and encoding and memory recall – to a very significant degree. “
Among the conclusions of the article:
- The atrophy or hypertrophy of gray matter follows the principles of the network.
- Neurological diseases have stronger network associations than psychiatric diseases.
- Some diseases have more diffuse effects on networks than others. Huntington’s disease, for example, affects nine networks and schizophrenia affects seven, while major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder affect two each.
“Researchers can take these multidimensional results as a roadmap for more specific investigations, as biologically significant regions of interest can be derived from component maps shared in our study,” said Dr. Fox.
Ongoing funding for the BrainMap initiative is crucial. “Part of the upcoming work involves working with the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin to create a BrainMap community portal for high performance computing, a tool for performing large-scale, complex, and multivariate analyzes of this type more readily performed by the research community in general, ”said Dr. Fox.
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Material provided by University of Texas at San Antonio Health Sciences Center. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.