Specialization:the connections have it

Saad Jbabdi & Timothy E J Behrens  Feb, 2012

Brain regions exhibit specialization for different functions, but such functions are constrained by anatomical connections to other brain regions. A study now finds that, by measuring these connections, we can predict complex functional responses before the subject has even performed the task.Specialization:the Connections have it

Most people associate London’s Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes, but a look inside its Tube station reveals a peculiar sight. In one section, people are rushing around with suitcases and stony faces, but barely 50 yards away they are sauntering about with friends, cameras and shopping bags. This incongruity may seem odd until you examine the Tube map: passengers can either take the pink line to the financial district or the brown line to the tourist meccas of Soho and Oxford Street. The different connections at Baker Street dictate the type of activity at different corners of the station. An analogous situation occurs in our brains. Gray matter areas are densely interconnected, and the details of neuronal activity in any one region depend on its connections to distant regions1. Incoming connections dictate the type of information to be processed, and outgoing connections dictate the influence this processing can have on other brain regions. Recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging allow us to measure correlates of these anatomical connections in the living human brain using a technique called diffusion tractography2. 

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