The contribution of geometry to the human connectome

Neuroimage. 2016 Jan 1;124(Pt A):379-393. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.09.009. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


The human connectome is a topologically complex, spatially embedded network. While its topological properties have been richly characterized, the constraints imposed by its spatial embedding are poorly understood. By applying a novel resampling method to tractography data, we show that the brain's spatial embedding makes a major, but not definitive, contribution to the topology of the human connectome. We first identify where the brain's structural hubs would likely be located if geometry was the sole determinant of brain topology. Empirical networks show a widespread shift away from this geometric center toward more peripheral interconnected skeletons in each hemisphere, with discrete clusters around the anterior insula, and the anterior and posterior midline regions of the cortex. A relatively small number of strong inter-hemispheric connections assimilate these intra-hemispheric structures into a rich club, whose connections are locally more clustered but globally longer than predicted by geometry. We also quantify the extent to which the segregation, integration, and modularity of the human brain are passively inherited from its geometry. These analyses reveal novel insights into the influence of spatial geometry on the human connectome, highlighting specific topological features that likely confer functional advantages but carry an additional metabolic cost.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Connectome / methods*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Young Adult