Thursday, March 18, 2021

Hierarchical dynamics as a macroscopic organizing principle of the human brain

Raut, Snyder, and Raichle do a open source description of general principles describing the functional organization of brain activity timescales that vary according to anatomical hierarchy:  


Accumulating evidence suggests that, during task performance, information is encoded at shorter timescales in primary sensory regions as compared to longer timescales in higher-order cortical regions. These encoding timescales correlate with the timescales of activity within these regions. Here, we test the hypothesis that a hierarchy of activity timescales represents a general organizing principle of brain function. Using functional imaging of the human brain in the eyes-open resting state, we find that the timescales of ongoing activity are hierarchically organized as gradients across the entire cerebral cortex. Further, whole-brain coverage permitted examination of subcortical structures, which exhibited hierarchical timescale gradients parallel to cerebral cortex. Altogether, our results support the existence of hierarchical gradients that globally organize human brain dynamics.
Multimodal evidence suggests that brain regions accumulate information over timescales that vary according to anatomical hierarchy. Thus, these experimentally defined “temporal receptive windows” are longest in cortical regions that are distant from sensory input. Interestingly, spontaneous activity in these regions also plays out over relatively slow timescales (i.e., exhibits slower temporal autocorrelation decay). These findings raise the possibility that hierarchical timescales represent an intrinsic organizing principle of brain function. Here, using resting-state functional MRI, we show that the timescale of ongoing dynamics follows hierarchical spatial gradients throughout human cerebral cortex. These intrinsic timescale gradients give rise to systematic frequency differences among large-scale cortical networks and predict individual-specific features of functional connectivity. Whole-brain coverage permitted us to further investigate the large-scale organization of subcortical dynamics. We show that cortical timescale gradients are topographically mirrored in striatum, thalamus, and cerebellum. Finally, timescales in the hippocampus followed a posterior-to-anterior gradient, corresponding to the longitudinal axis of increasing representational scale. Thus, hierarchical dynamics emerge as a global organizing principle of mammalian brains.

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