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BMC Biol. 2007 May 9;5:18.

Global and regional brain metabolic scaling and its functional consequences.

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Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology, Division of Biology 216-76, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.



Information processing in the brain requires large amounts of metabolic energy, the spatial distribution of which is highly heterogeneous, reflecting the complex activity patterns in the mammalian brain.


In this study, it was found, based on empirical data, that despite this heterogeneity, the volume-specific cerebral glucose metabolic rate of many different brain structures scales with brain volume with almost the same exponent: around -0.15. The exception is white matter, the metabolism of which seems to scale with a standard specific exponent of -1/4. The scaling exponents for the total oxygen and glucose consumptions in the brain in relation to its volume are identical, at 0.86 +/- 0.03, which is significantly larger than the exponents 3/4 and 2/3 that have been suggested for whole body basal metabolism on body mass.


These findings show explicitly that in mammals: (i) volume-specific scaling exponents of the cerebral energy expenditure in different brain parts are approximately constant (except brain stem structures), and (ii) the total cerebral metabolic exponent against brain volume is greater than the much-cited Kleiber's 3/4 exponent. The neurophysiological factors that might account for the regional uniformity of the exponents and for the excessive scaling of the total brain metabolism are discussed, along with the relationship between brain metabolic scaling and computation.

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