The cerebral cortex is composed of subregions whose functional specialization is largely determined by their incoming and outgoing connections with each other. In the present study, we asked which cortical regions can exert the greatest influence over other regions and the cortical network as a whole. Previous research on this question has relied on coarse anatomy (mapping large fiber pathways) or functional connectivity (mapping inter-regional statistical dependencies in ongoing activity). Here we combined direct electrical stimulation with recordings from the cortical surface to provide a novel insight into directed, inter-regional influence within the cerebral cortex of awake humans. These networks of directed interaction were reproducible across strength thresholds and across subjects. Directed network properties included (1) a decrease in the reciprocity of connections with distance; (2) major projector nodes (sources of influence) were found in peri-Rolandic cortex and posterior, basal and polar regions of the temporal lobe; and (3) major receiver nodes (receivers of influence) were found in anterolateral frontal, superior parietal, and superior temporal regions. Connectivity maps derived from electrical stimulation and from resting electrocorticography (ECoG) correlations showed similar spatial distributions for the same source node. However, higher-level network topology analysis revealed differences between electrical stimulation and ECoG that were partially related to the reciprocity of connections. Together, these findings inform our understanding of large-scale corticocortical influence as well as the interpretation of functional connectivity networks.
Keywords: ECoG; effective connectivity; functional connectivity; graph theory; stimulation.
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