Metabolic connectivity mapping reveals effective connectivity in the resting human brain

Research Highlight

Figuring out who fired first

© SCIEPRO/Science Photo Library/Getty

© SCIEPRO/Science Photo Library/Getty

Combining two brain imaging techniques produces a better map of what makes us tick, showing not only the connections between neurons in a network, but the direction in which information flows.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) already provides high-resolution snapshots of brain activity. Since regions that are active at the same time are probably functionally connected, fMRI can be used to build maps of interconnected neurons — but it can’t show which neurons fired first.

A team including researchers from the Technical University of Munich, developed a technique, known as metabolic connectivity mapping (MCM), which relies on the fact that neurons receiving signals use more energy than those sending them. MCM combines data from a PET scan measuring metabolic activity throughout the brain with data about activity from an fMRI, enabling researchers to map which neurons are upstream in a network. These maps may help scientists investigate disorders involving misfiring neural circuits, such as Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.

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  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113, 428–433 (2016). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1513752113
Institutions Share
TUM University Hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar (MRI), Germany 0.50
UCL Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, United Kingdom (UK) 0.11
University Hospital of Cologne, Germany 0.11
TUM Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Germany 0.09
Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany 0.07
TUM Department of Nuclear Medicine, Germany 0.04
Instituto de Alta Tecnologia Medica (IATM), Colombia 0.04
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), United States of America (USA) 0.04