AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Information Flows Through Major Neuron Hubs in the Brain

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In a study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Indiana University found that 70 percent of all information within cortical regions of the brain passes through only 20 percent of these regions’ neurons. “The discovery of this small but information-rich subset of neurons within cortical regions suggests this sub-network might play a vital role in communication, learning and memory,” said the study’s lead researcher. Researchers also reported these high-traffic “hub neurons” could play a role in understanding brain health, since this sort of highly efficient network — in which a small number of neurons are more essential to brain function — is also more vulnerable to disruption. According to researchers, the brain seems to favor efficiency over vulnerability. “In addition to helping us understand how the cortex processes information, this work could shed light on how the brain responds to neurodegenerative diseases that affect the ‘network,'” said the lead researcher. If the higher metabolic rates of hub neurons make them more vulnerable, for example, the resulting damage could be particularly harmful in conditions in which neurons are known to die, such as Alzheimer’s disease. To read more about this study, click here.

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