The Wiring Economy Principle: Connectivity Determines Anatomy in the Human Brain


Minimization of the wiring cost of white matter fibers in the human brain appears to be an organizational principle. We investigate this aspect in the human brain using whole brain connectivity networks extracted from high resolution diffusion MRI data of 14 normal volunteers. We specifically address the question of whether brain anatomy determines its connectivity or vice versa. Unlike previous studies we use weighted networks, where connections between cortical nodes are real-valued rather than binary off-on connections. In one set of analyses we found that the connectivity structure of the brain has near optimal wiring cost compared to random networks with the same number of edges, degree distribution and edge weight distribution. A specifically designed minimization routine could not find cheaper wiring without significantly degrading network performance. In another set of analyses we kept the observed brain network topology and connectivity but allowed nodes to freely move on a 3D manifold topologically identical to the brain. An efficient minimization routine was written to find the lowest wiring cost configuration. We found that beginning from any random configuration, the nodes invariably arrange themselves in a configuration with a striking resemblance to the brain. This confirms the widely held but poorly tested claim that wiring economy is a driving principle of the brain. Intriguingly, our results also suggest that the brain mainly optimizes for the most desirable network connectivity, and the observed brain anatomy is merely a result of this optimization

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This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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