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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Brain Inefficiency

An interesting paper further advancing the idea that we are looking at “local” rather than “global” brain deficits in schizophrenia.

In the Sept issue of the J Neurosci Wang et al. have a new take on what might be wrong with the brain in schizophrenia: they are proposing that the we are looking at small-world (rather than global) cortical network deficits.

What does this all mean? While the global functional brain network architecture is okay (consistent with a plethora of studies reporting “diffuse” brain changes in schizophrenia) the problem is that that the network local units are performing suboptimally.

Think about it this way. FedEx global infrastructure is up and running: the planes and trucks and trains and ships are all on schedule, doing a fine job. But if the local FedEx man chooses to spend some extra 10 minutes on his latte instead of picking up your package and, due to those few extra minutes, the plane leaves on schedule without your package – well, then the package will not get delivered in time, will it?

Local Hubs Differences
 Another intriguing finding here is the local network hubs in healthy controls (HC) and schizophrenia were in different locations. The equivalent regions of HC hubs had decreased gray matter in patients; AND the local network hubs in SCZ were in completely different locations than in HC.

Here is the $546 question: Are these hub location changes primary or secondary?

Primary: the wrong placement might be responsible for the local network inefficiency. The hubs “form” in all the wrong places, then there is subsequent gray matter decrease at other locations, due to these regions relative lack of use and subsequent disconnection (in line with Hebb’s principle).
Secondary: due to a primary deficit in the “optimal” hubs regions, the brain accommodates and develops secondary hubs at some other locations. A good compensatory move maybe, but different than standard. Survival is ensured but you could get either (too) creative or psychotic (hence the overlapping creativity/SCZ)

A lot of speculation here-but I find this whole small-network inefficiency story pretty intriguing.

© Copyright Adrian Preda, M.D.

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