Study offers new insight into brain architecture and function

brain graphic, with photo of two men

wang-liu-news.jpgGreat collaboration from computer science and engineering faculty:

The researchers in UGA’s College of Engineering and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ department of computer science say their study is the first to identify specific areas they call “three hinges.” They believe these junctions of three ridges along the brain’s surface play an important role in how the brain forms as well as how it works.

“The traditional way of describing brain structure assumes the creases and folds of the cortex perform similar functions,” said Xianqiao Wang, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “We propose something quite different.”

Historically, scientists have proposed three broad theories about how the brain develops its pattern of ridges and valleys – known as gyri and sulci. One idea is that some areas of cortex simply grow more and rise above other areas, creating the gyri. A second theory holds that groups of interconnected neurons in the cortex are mechanically pulled together by threadlike axons that make up white matter. A third idea is that gray matter grows more than white matter, leading to a mechanical buckling effect that gives the cortex its shape.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal “Cerebral Cortex,” Wang and Tianming Liu, a Distinguished Research Professor of computer science, propose a new theory. They believe the development of dense axonal fibers under the grey and white matter pushes outward as the brain grows, generating the three-hinge areas.

Diagnostic tools and soft tissue modeling capabilities are allowing researchers to follow their creativity to produce novel insights into how biological systems functions individually together and in concert. Great work from the team led by Dr. Liu and Dr. Wang.

Image and story courtesy of the UGA College of Engineering.