White matter fiber architecture from the Connectome Scanner dataset. The fibers are color-coded by direction: red = left-right, green = anterior-posterior, blue = ascending-descending (RGB=XYZ). Credit: www.humanconnectomeproject.org


Researchers use connectome to reconcile seemingly inconsistent neuroimaging findings. 

In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D. Fox, MD, PhD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) used data from the human brain connectome – a publicly available “wiring diagram” of the human brain based on data from thousands of healthy human volunteers – to reassess the findings from neuroimaging studies of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. 

In neuroimaging, a common assumption is that studies of specific diseases or symptoms should all implicate a specific brain region. However, cognitive functions, neuropsychiatric symptoms and diseases may better map to brain networks rather than single brain regions. So we tested the hypothesis that these inconsistent neuroimaging findings are part of one connected brain network.
Michael D. Fox, director of the Laboratory for Brain Network Imaging and Modulation at BIDMC and an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School

Fox and colleagues have previously used the network mapping technique – pioneered by Fox and others – to reveal which parts of the brain are responsible for a number of symptoms, conditions, behaviour and even consciousness. Now the method could pave the way to a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. 

The findings also suggest a unique solution to the "reproducibility crisis" in the field of neuroscience. Reproducibility – the potential for different investigators to run the study again and obtain the same results – is one of the main tenants of the scientific method and critical for translating research findings into treatments.  In this study, Fox and colleagues use the human connectome to change the way reproducibility is measured. 

This is a new way to combine results across many different studies to determine the brain circuit most tightly associated with a given symptom or disease. By shifting our focus from specific brain regions to networks, we show that seemingly inconsistent neuroimaging findings are in fact reproducible.
Michael D. Fox, MD, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)


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