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Modeling the restless brain

observed. Sporns and Honey compare studying the brain to studying other complex systems such as cellular metabolism, the economy or global climate change. Models must be used to test theories and generate new insights into how the system works as a whole.

And while technologies such as functional MRI allow scientists to measure some kinds of neural connectivity, neuroinformatics approaches, which use extensive anatomical and physiological data sets to describe the macacque's brain, allowed Sporns and Honey to collect data on all the activity that occurred during their simulations.

Sporns said he wants to create a similar large-scale computer model of the human brain that will allow them to study larger networks and connectivity, once the necessary data sets of how human neural networks are structured are available.

A computational model of the human brain would help researchers better understand where the observed resting state fluctuations come from. It also would let them tie neural activity to cognitive and behavioral performance and ask questions about differences in the brains of individual persons.

Sporns said this research could lead to clinical applications, offering new diagnostic tools for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease that are known to affect the brain's connections. It also could help explain why humans do not think alike.

"If fluctuations in brain activity are shaped by anatomy," Sporns said, "then individual differences in the way people think and what they think about could be rooted in differences in the way their brains are connected."


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Source:Indiana University


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