EEG functional connectivity, axon delays and white matter disease

Clin Neurophysiol. 2015 Jan;126(1):110-20. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


Objective: Both structural and functional brain connectivities are closely linked to white matter disease. We discuss several such links of potential interest to neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, and non-clinical neuroscientists.

Methods: Treatment of brains as genuine complex systems suggests major emphasis on the multi-scale nature of brain connectivity and dynamic behavior. Cross-scale interactions of local, regional, and global networks are apparently responsible for much of EEG's oscillatory behaviors. Finite axon propagation speed, often assumed to be infinite in local network models, is central to our conceptual framework.

Results: Myelin controls axon speed, and the synchrony of impulse traffic between distant cortical regions appears to be critical for optimal mental performance and learning. Several experiments suggest that axon conduction speed is plastic, thereby altering the regional and global white matter connections that facilitate binding of remote local networks.

Conclusions: Combined EEG and high resolution EEG can provide distinct multi-scale estimates of functional connectivity in both healthy and diseased brains with measures like frequency and phase spectra, covariance, and coherence.

Significance: White matter disease may profoundly disrupt normal EEG coherence patterns, but currently these kinds of studies are rare in scientific labs and essentially missing from clinical environments.

Keywords: Alpha rhythms; Axon propagation speed; Cortico-cortical axons; Functional connectivity; Global dynamics; Local networks; Multi-scale dynamics; White matter disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Leukoencephalopathies / diagnosis
  • Leukoencephalopathies / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • White Matter / physiopathology*