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Local variations in circuitry are key to brain’s power

February 12, 2019

Yale researchers studying how the human cortex performs its remarkable feats have shown that regional variations in brain local circuitry — not just long-distance connections between regions — help determine how well we think, perceive, and analyze the world around us.

Imaging studies of the brain have shown in intricate detail that the cerebral cortex forms extensive networks of brain areas interacting through long-range connections. This led many scientists to focus on deficits in connections between brain areas as major causes of many mental health disorders.

However, the Yale team led by John D. Murray, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, used fMRI studies to show how localized differences can impact function across different brain regions.  Incorporating neuroimaging and genetic data, they built a mathematical model of the human brain that predicts how these localized differences can influence patterns of activity throughout the cortex. 

This modeling framework opens up applications in the growing area of ‘computational psychiatry’ to guide development of therapeutics,” Murray said. “These models can simulate the effects of pharmacology in the human brain by utilizing the brain-wide gradients of drug-receptor expression.”

The research was published Feb. 7 in the journal Neuron.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on February 11, 2019