Hubs in the human fetal brain network

Marion I. van den Heuvel*, Elise Turk, Janessa H. Manning, Jasmine Hect, Edgar Hernandez-Andrade, Sonia S. Hassan, Roberto Romero, Martijn P. van den Heuvel, Moriah E. Thomason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Advances in neuroimaging and network analyses have lead to discovery of highly connected regions, or hubs, in the connectional architecture of the human brain. Whether these hubs emerge in utero, has yet to be examined. The current study addresses this question and aims to determine the location of neural hubs in human fetuses. Fetal resting-state fMRI data (N = 105) was used to construct connectivity matrices for 197 discrete brain regions. We discovered that within the connectional functional organization of the human fetal brain key hubs are emerging. Consistent with prior reports in infants, visual and motor regions were identified as emerging hub areas, specifically in cerebellar areas. We also found evidence for network hubs in association cortex, including areas remarkably close to the adult fusiform facial and Wernicke areas. Functional significance of hub structure was confirmed by computationally deleting hub versus random nodes and observing that global efficiency decreased significantly more when hubs were removed (p <.001). Taken together, we conclude that both primary and association brain regions demonstrate centrality in network organization before birth. While fetal hubs may be important for facilitating network communication, they may also form potential points of vulnerability in fetal brain development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume30
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Cite this

van den Heuvel, M. I., Turk, E., Manning, J. H., Hect, J., Hernandez-Andrade, E., Hassan, S. S., ... Thomason, M. E. (2018). Hubs in the human fetal brain network. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 30, 108-115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2018.02.001