Information processing is one of the brain’s main functions, especially transferring information to the right places at the right times. Research on large-scale brain networks reveals that “hubs” in the brain, highly connected regions that like hubs of the airport system, tend to consistently attract information flow.
In a new study, University of Michigan investigators used mathematical analysis, simulation studies in computational brain network models and brain electrical activity data collected from the EEGs of humans in the conscious and unconscious state to demonstrate the general relationship of hub status and information inflow.
“Understanding how information transfer occurs in the brain is critical, especially if network hubs are taken off line by anesthesia, tumor or stroke,” says senior study author George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D.
Mashour and study corresponding author UnCheol Lee, Ph.D., lead the University of Michigan’s Center for Consciousness Science, one of the few centers in the world that examines the mechanisms and measurement of consciousness.
Their study findings have been published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. Researchers believe the results may provide a more straightforward approach to understanding how the overall architecture of the brain shapes information transfer in complex networks.
“It could help us better understand principles of information processing in the brain as the field maps out the structural and functional connections of different brain regions,” said Lee, associate director of the center.
The nation is in the early stages of an ambitious project called the BRAIN Initiative to map the structural and functional network of the healthy brain.
Scientists are expected to explore exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.
“What is unique about this study,” said lead author and physicist Joon-Young Moon, “is that we found a consistent relationship of hubs and information flow in many types of networks, including empirical brain networks reconstructed from human electroencephalograms.
“Hubs may not, as we commonly think, be control centers that send out information, but rather a critical destination where information is received and integrated.”
Source: University of Michigan