A blueprint of mammalian cortical connectomes

by Alexandros Goulas, Piotr Majka, Marcello G. P. Rosa, Claus C. Hilgetag

The cerebral cortex of mammals exhibits intricate interareal wiring. Moreover, mammalian cortices differ vastly in size, cytological composition, and phylogenetic distance. Given such complexity and pronounced species differences, it is a considerable challenge to decipher organizational principles of mammalian connectomes. Here, we demonstrate species-specific and species-general unifying principles linking the physical, cytological, and connectional dimensions of architecture in the mouse, cat, marmoset, and macaque monkey. The existence of connections is related to the cytology of cortical areas, in addition to the role of physical distance, but this relation is attenuated in mice and marmoset monkeys. The cytoarchitectonic cortical gradients, and not the rostrocaudal axis of the cortex, are closely linked to the laminar origin of connections, a principle that allows the extrapolation of this connectional feature to humans. Lastly, a network core, with a central role under different modes of network communication, characterizes all cortical connectomes. We observe a displacement of the network core in mammals, with a shift of the core of cats and macaque monkeys toward the less neuronally dense areas of the cerebral cortex. This displacement has functional ramifications but also entails a potential increased degree of vulnerability to pathology. In sum, our results sketch out a blueprint of mammalian connectomes consisting of species-specific and species-general links between the connectional, physical, and cytological dimensions of the cerebral cortex, possibly reflecting variations and persistence of evolutionarily conserved mechanisms and cellular phenomena. Our framework elucidates organizational principles that encompass but also extend beyond the wiring economy principle imposed by the physical embedding of the cerebral cortex.

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