The principles of functional specialization and integration in the resting brain are implemented in a complex system of specialized networks that share some degree of interaction. Recent studies have identified wider functional modules compared to previously defined networks and reported a small-world architecture of brain activity in which central nodes balance the pressure to evolve segregated pathways with the integration of local systems. The accurate identification of such central nodes is crucial but might be challenging for several reasons, e.g. inter-subject variability and physiological/pathological network plasticity, and recent works reported partially inconsistent results concerning the properties of these cortical hubs. Here, we applied a whole-brain data-driven approach to extract cortical functional cores and examined their connectivity from a resting state fMRI experiment on healthy subjects. Two main statistically significant cores, centered on the posterior cingulate cortex and the supplementary motor area, were extracted and their functional connectivity maps, thresholded at three statistical levels, revealed the presence of two complex systems. One system is consistent with the default mode network (DMN) and gradually connects to visual regions, the other centered on motor regions and gradually connects to more sensory-specific portions of cortex. These two large scale networks eventually converged to regions belonging to the medial aspect of the DMN, potentially allowing inter-network interactions.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.