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Front. Comput. Neurosci., 08 February 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fncom.2011.00005

The non-random brain: efficiency, economy, and complex dynamics

  • Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Modern anatomical tracing and imaging techniques are beginning to reveal the structural anatomy of neural circuits at small and large scales in unprecedented detail. When examined with analytic tools from graph theory and network science, neural connectivity exhibits highly non-random features, including high clustering and short path length, as well as modules and highly central hub nodes. These characteristic topological features of neural connections shape non-random dynamic interactions that occur during spontaneous activity or in response to external stimulation. Disturbances of connectivity and thus of neural dynamics are thought to underlie a number of disease states of the brain, and some evidence suggests that degraded functional performance of brain networks may be the outcome of a process of randomization affecting their nodes and edges. This article provides a survey of the non-random structure of neural connectivity, primarily at the large scale of regions and pathways in the mammalian cerebral cortex. In addition, we will discuss how non-random connections can give rise to differentiated and complex patterns of dynamics and information flow. Finally, we will explore the idea that at least some disorders of the nervous system are associated with increased randomness of neural connections.

Keywords: networks, neuroanatomy, connectome, neural dynamics, neuroimaging, complex systems

Citation: Sporns O (2011) The non- random brain: efficiency, economy, and complex dynamics. Front. Comput. Neurosci. 5:5. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2011.00005

Received: 31 October 2010; Paper pending published: 06 December 2010;
Accepted: 25 January 2011; Published online: 08 February 2011.

Edited by:

Arvind Kumar, Albert-Ludwig University Freiburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Xiao-Jing Wang, Yale University School of Medicine, USA
Marcus Kaiser, Seoul National University, South Korea

Copyright: © 2011 Sporns. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Olaf Sporns, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. e-mail: osporns@indiana.edu