Professor Marcus Kaiser at CRACS

29 June 2011

Seminar: The Human Connectome: Organization and characterization of hierarchical brain networks

By Marcus Kaiser, Associate Professor in Neuroinformatics, Newcastle University, UK

Date: 29.June.2011
Time: 11h
Room: S2
Location: Dep. Ciencia de Computadores/FCUP

Abstract: The human brain consists of connections between neurons at the local level and of connections between brain regions at the global level. The study of the entire network, the connectome, has become a recent focus in neuroscience research. Using routines from physics and the social sciences, neuronal networks were found to show properties of scale-free networks, making them robust towards random damage, and of small-world systems leading to better information integration. First, I will describe novel results concerning the hierarchical and modular organisation of neural networks. Second, I will report on the role of hierarchical modularity on activity spreading. Importantly, low connectivity between modules can provide bottlenecks for activity spreading. Limiting activity spreading is crucial for preventing epileptic seizures. Indeed, connectivity between modules is increased in epilepsy patients that could explain the rise of large-scale synchronization. Finally, I will discuss strategies for characterising neural networks using motifs, single node motifs, and motif fingerprints. As an example, I will show motif changes for brain networks at different ages and with different spatial resolutions.

Biography: Marcus Kaiser studied biology and computer science at the Ruhr-University Bochum and the Distance University Hagen finishing with a master degree in 2002. He obtained his PhD, funded by a fellowship from the German National Merit Foundation, from Jacobs University Bremen in 2005. Directly after finishing his PhD, he started a tenure-track position at Newcastle University and became initiator and deputy director of the Welcome Trust PhD programme in Systems Neuroscience. He is leader fo the UK INCF Special Interest Group in Image-based Neuroinformatics. He is author of the first major review (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2004; cited 300+ times) and of more than 30 other publications in the field of brain connectivity. Research interests are understanding the link between brain architecture and processing by modelling brain development, neural dynamics, and recovery after stroke (see http://www.biological-networks.org/ ).