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Journal Article

Long-range functional connections mirror and link microarchitectural and cognitive hierarchies in the human brain


Valk,  Sofie L.
Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Research Center Jülich, Germany;
Otto Hahn Group Cognitive Neurogenetics, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of Systems Neuroscience, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Germany;

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Wang, Y., Royer, J., Park, B.-y., Vos de Wael, R., Larivière, S., Tavakol, S., et al. (2023). Long-range functional connections mirror and link microarchitectural and cognitive hierarchies in the human brain. Cerebral Cortex, 33(5), 1782-1798. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhac172.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-8462-2

Background: Higher-order cognition is hypothesized to be implemented via distributed cortical networks that are linked via long-range connections. However, it is unknown how computational advantages of long-range connections reflect cortical microstructure and microcircuitry.

Methods: We investigated this question by (i) profiling long-range cortical connectivity using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cortico-cortical geodesic distance mapping, (ii) assessing how long-range connections reflect local brain microarchitecture, and (iii) examining the microarchitectural similarity of regions connected through long-range connections.

Results: Analysis of 2 independent datasets indicated that sensory/motor areas had more clustered short-range connections, while transmodal association systems hosted distributed, long-range connections. Meta-analytical decoding suggested that this topographical difference mirrored shifts in cognitive function, from perception/action towards emotional/social processing. Analysis of myelin-sensitive in vivo MRI as well as postmortem histology and transcriptomics datasets established that gradients in functional connectivity distance are paralleled by those present in cortical microarchitecture. Notably, long-range connections were found to link spatially remote regions of association cortex with an unexpectedly similar microarchitecture.

Conclusions: By mapping covarying topographies of long-range functional connections and cortical microcircuits, the current work provides insights into structure-function relations in human neocortex.