Toward an information theoretical description of communication in brain networks

Netw Neurosci. 2021 Aug 30;5(3):646-665. doi: 10.1162/netn_a_00185. eCollection 2021.


Modeling communication dynamics in the brain is a key challenge in network neuroscience. We present here a framework that combines two measurements for any system where different communication processes are taking place on top of a fixed structural topology: path processing score (PPS) estimates how much the brain signal has changed or has been transformed between any two brain regions (source and target); path broadcasting strength (PBS) estimates the propagation of the signal through edges adjacent to the path being assessed. We use PPS and PBS to explore communication dynamics in large-scale brain networks. We show that brain communication dynamics can be divided into three main "communication regimes" of information transfer: absent communication (no communication happening); relay communication (information is being transferred almost intact); and transducted communication (the information is being transformed). We use PBS to categorize brain regions based on the way they broadcast information. Subcortical regions are mainly direct broadcasters to multiple receivers; Temporal and frontal nodes mainly operate as broadcast relay brain stations; visual and somatomotor cortices act as multichannel transducted broadcasters. This work paves the way toward the field of brain network information theory by providing a principled methodology to explore communication dynamics in large-scale brain networks.

Keywords: Brain connectomics; Brain networks; Communication regimes; Human connectome; Information theory.