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Network Neuroscience

Olaf Sporns, Editor
Spring 2017, Vol. 1, No. 2, Pages 116-142
(doi: 10.1162/NETN_a_00007)
Enhanced prefrontal functional–structural networks to support postural control deficits after traumatic brain injury in a pediatric population
Article PDF (979.69 KB)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects structural connectivity, triggering the reorganization of structural–functional circuits in a manner that remains poorly understood. We focus here on brain network reorganization in relation to postural control deficits after TBI. We enrolled young participants who had suffered moderate to severe TBI, comparing them to young, typically developing control participants. TBI patients (but not controls) recruited prefrontal regions to interact with two separated networks: (1) a subcortical network, including parts of the motor network, basal ganglia, cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, posterior cingulate gyrus, and precuneus; and (2) a task-positive network, involving regions of the dorsal attention system, together with dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal regions. We also found that the increased prefrontal connectivity in TBI patients was correlated with some postural control indices, such as the amount of body sway, whereby patients with worse balance increased their connectivity in frontal regions more strongly. The increased prefrontal connectivity found in TBI patients may provide the structural scaffolding for stronger cognitive control of certain behavioral functions, consistent with the observations that various motor tasks are performed less automatically following TBI and that more cognitive control is associated with such actions.Using a new hierarchical atlas whose modules are relevant for both structure and function, we found increased structural and functional connectivity in prefrontal regions in TBI patients as compared to controls, in addition to a general pattern of overall decreased connectivity across the TBI brain. Although this increased prefrontal connectivity reflected interactions between brain areas when participants were at rest, the enhanced connectivity was found to be negatively correlated with active behavior such as postural control performance. Thus our findings, obtained when the brain was at rest, potentially reflect how TBI patients orchestrate task-related activations to support behavior in everyday life. In particular, our findings of enhanced connectivity in TBI might help these patients overcome deficits in cerebellar and subcortical connections, in addition to compensating for deficits when interacting with the task-positive network. Hence, it appears that greater cognitive control is exerted over certain actions in order to overcome deficits in their automatic processing.