Claus Hilgetag

Claus Hilgetag
School of Engineering and Science, Jacobs University Bremen
Bremen, Germany

Speaker of Workshop 1

Will talk about: Linking structure and connections of the cerebral cortex

Bio sketch:

Claus Hilgetag studied Biophysics in Berlin and Neuroscience in Edinburgh, Oxford, Newcastle and Boston. He was a member of the founding faculty of International University Bremen (now Jacobs University) in 2001 and is also affiliated with the Department of Health Sciences at Boston University.  His main research interest is the identification of general features of structural brain connectivity, such as modules or hierarchy, and understanding their implications for brain dynamics and function.

Talk abstract:

What explains the highly specific patterns of connections linking different areas in the mammalian cerebral cortex?  We systematically explore how the existence or absence of connections, their relative density, and laminar patterns of projection origins and terminations relate to structural factors, such as inter-area distance, similarity of areas in laminar architecture, neuronal density, and cortical thickness.  Relationships are tested for different sets of connection data containing qualitative and quantitative information on projections in the animal models of the primate and cat visual cortex. 

Qualitative and quantitative connection data show similar features.  Out of the tested structural variables, area similarity in architectonic type and neuronal density most strongly correlates with the laminar projection patterns.  Projections from areas of higher type (more layers) or greater neuronal density to areas of lower type (fewer layers) or lower density mostly originate in upper cortical layers and terminate in middle-deep layers.  On the other hand, correlations of inter-area distance and cortical thickness similarity with connection patterns are weaker or absent.  The structural similarity of cortical areas also correlates with the existence and relative density of connections, providing an explanation why dense connections exist not only between nearby areas but also remote areas, which may be separated by as many as 8 area borders, but are architectonically similar. 

These results indicate a close link between cortical architecture and the organization of cortical connections.  The findings may help integrate projections with the intrinsic architecture of the mammalian cortex, and predict connection patterns in the human brain. 

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