Cortical cores in network dynamics

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Abstract

Spontaneous brain activity at rest is spatially and temporally organized in networks of cortical and subcortical regions specialized for different functional domains. Even though brain networks were first studied individually through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, more recent studies focused on their dynamic ‘integration’. Integration depends on two fundamental properties: the structural topology of brain networks and the dynamics of functional connectivity. In this scenario, cortical hub regions, that are central regions highly connected with other areas of the brain, play a fundamental role in serving as way stations for network traffic. In this review, we focus on the functional organization of a set of hub areas that we define as the ‘dynamic core’. In the resting state, these regions dynamically interact with other regions of the brain linking multiple networks. First, we introduce and compare the statistical measures used for detecting hubs. Second, we discuss their identification based on different methods (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Diffusion Weighted Imaging, Electro/Magneto Encephalography). Third, we show that the degree of interaction between these core regions and the rest of the brain varies over time, indicating that their centrality is not stationary. Moreover, alternating periods of strong and weak centrality of the core relate to periods of strong and weak global efficiency in the brain. These results indicate that information processing in the brain is not stable, but fluctuates and its temporal and spectral properties are discussed. In particular, the hypothesis of ‘pulsed’ information processing, discovered in the slow temporal scale, is explored for signals at higher temporal resolution.

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