Behavior depends on coordinated activity across multiple brain regions. Within such networks, highly connected hub regions are assumed to disproportionately influence behavioral output, although this hypothesis has not been systematically evaluated. Previously, by mapping brain-wide expression of the activity-regulated gene c-fos, we identified a network of brain regions co-activated by fear memory. To test the hypothesis that hub regions are more important for network function, here, we simulated node deletion in silico in this behaviorally defined functional network. Removal of high degree nodes produced the greatest network disruption (e.g., reduction in global efficiency). To test these predictions in vivo, we examined the impact of post-training chemogenetic silencing of different network nodes on fear memory consolidation. In a series of independent experiments encompassing 25% of network nodes (i.e., 21/84 brain regions), we found that node degree accurately predicted observed deficits in memory consolidation, with silencing of highly connected hubs producing the largest impairments.
Keywords: CA1; DREADDS; contextual fear conditioning; functional connectivity; graph theory; hippocampus; lateral septal nucleus; laterodorsal thalamic nucleus; neocortex; reuniens thalamic nucleus.
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