Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The degree to which functional connectivity between brain regions is affected by the properties of white matter pathways is a fundamental question in neuroscience.

Magnetic resonance imaging can study both the strength of communication between brain regions (functional connectivity) and the properties of the pathways that connect them (white matter microstructure). Animal studies suggest that these things are related, but there is little literature on this in humans.

Jeroen Mollink, Karla Miller and Saad Jbabdi used 11,000 subjects from UK Biobank to ask whether features related to white matter microstructure (diffusion MRI) can predict the synchrony of functional MRI activity in the regions a given pathway connects.

They constructed models of diffusion MRI derived features to predict functional connectivity. 'One exciting finding is that that microstructure-function relationships are a general property of the brain', said lead author Jeroen Mollink, 'Our microstructure models were able to identify statistically significant variation in function in the vast majority - 90% - of brain regions we considered.'

The research revealed that these relationships are specific, in that you almost always get a better prediction if you use the correct white matter pathway for a given region, compared to predictions using a different white matter pathway. 

In addition, these relationships are reproducible. The researchers trained the models on an initial cohort of 7500 subjects, and then used them to predict functional connectivity in 3800 un-seen subjects.

Finally, the team discovered a unique genetic profile for these relatoinships, via a genome-wide association study of the function-microstructure prediction for each region

The identification of these small but reproducible effects can be a first step toward aggregate measures with greater explanatory power.

Read the full paper here

Similar stories

Insights into the molecular pathways of progressive multiple sclerosis

Text by Ian Fyfe for 'Nature Reviews Neurology'

Discovery of gene involved in chronic pain creates new treatment target

Our researchers have discovered a gene that regulates pain sensitisation by amplifying pain signals within the spinal cord. This is helping them to understand an important mechanism underlying chronic pain in humans, and provides a new treatment target.

Lymph nodes reveal more about mechanisms of autoimmunity

Two recent papers show that studying lymph nodes reveals details of the mechanisms of autoimmunity.

Multiple heart-related conditions linked to triple dementia risk, regardless of genetics

Having multiple conditions that affect the heart is linked to a greater risk of dementia than having high genetic risk, according to a large-scale new study.

NDCN research presented at Myasthenia Gravis conference

The 14th Quinquennial Myasthenia Gravis Federation of America International Conference was recently held in Miami with 450 delegates attending in person, including over 100 from industry.

Magnetic signatures of the brain characterised in UK Biobank imaging study

A study published this week in Nature Neuroscience demonstrates how studying the magnetic properties of tissue may provide a unique window into brain health and disease.