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J Neurosci. 2011 Nov 2;31(44):15775-86. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3539-11.2011.

Rich-club organization of the human connectome.

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Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Utrecht, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The human brain is a complex network of interlinked regions. Recent studies have demonstrated the existence of a number of highly connected and highly central neocortical hub regions, regions that play a key role in global information integration between different parts of the network. The potential functional importance of these "brain hubs" is underscored by recent studies showing that disturbances of their structural and functional connectivity profile are linked to neuropathology. This study aims to map out both the subcortical and neocortical hubs of the brain and examine their mutual relationship, particularly their structural linkages. Here, we demonstrate that brain hubs form a so-called "rich club," characterized by a tendency for high-degree nodes to be more densely connected among themselves than nodes of a lower degree, providing important information on the higher-level topology of the brain network. Whole-brain structural networks of 21 subjects were reconstructed using diffusion tensor imaging data. Examining the connectivity profile of these networks revealed a group of 12 strongly interconnected bihemispheric hub regions, comprising the precuneus, superior frontal and superior parietal cortex, as well as the subcortical hippocampus, putamen, and thalamus. Importantly, these hub regions were found to be more densely interconnected than would be expected based solely on their degree, together forming a rich club. We discuss the potential functional implications of the rich-club organization of the human connectome, particularly in light of its role in information integration and in conferring robustness to its structural core.

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