A self-organized connectivity model that is shared in the brains of all living organisms on Earth and potentially in other types of networks as well, was discovered in a new study. Scientists believe that connectivity between neurons occurs through universal principles of networking and self-organization, rather than being determined by the biological characteristics of each individual organism.
A new study recently published in the journal Nature Physics, carried out by physicists and neuroscientists from the universities of Chicago, Harvard, Yale and New York City, in the United States, describes how neurons connect through universal strategies of developing networks with independent organization, without being tied to the specific biological conditions that characterize each species or organism.
A shared backbone
The research is based on the neural connectivity analysis in a variety of model organisms and could be applied to non-biological networks, whose interactions would follow the same principles as in living beings. According to a press release from the University of Chicago, neurons form an intricate network of connections between synapses to communicate and interact with each other. Although the large number of connections may seem random, brain cell networks are actually dominated by a small number of connections, which are much stronger than the majority and are called “heavy tail.”
These stronger connections make up the spine of the circuits that allow organisms to develop multiple cognitive and motor activities, such as thinking, learning, communicating and moving. Until now, scientists had not been able to determine whether this pattern of stronger connections arises due to specific biological processes in different organisms or species or, on the contrary, originates from basic principles of network organization.
Now, the new research would indicate that the second path is the correct one: a shared mechanism for the formation of neural networks would be the one that conditions and creates the “heavy tails” structure, marking the basis on which the connectivity between neurons is supported. Above this main scaffolding, the differences between organisms would mark the details or elements that allow them to develop different functions or capabilities.
A universal principle of self-organization
“To understand these strong connections between neurons, you can think of a social network: Some connections, like those you have with your best friends and family, are much stronger than most, and are very important online. “Advances in particular forms of microscopy and imaging now allow us to discover the mechanism by which these stronger connections come together,” said scientist Christopher Lynn, lead author of the new study, in a statement from the City University of New York. .
The model of the research team led by Lynn proved to be applicable across species, showing how simple and general principles of cellular self-organization They can lead to very strong connections and closely connected networks that exist in the brain. The findings suggest that the formation of neural networks does not depend on species-specific mechanisms, but could be governed by a simple and universal principle of self-organization. These new conclusions could allow us to investigate brain structure in other animals and could even help us better understand the function of the human brain.
Heavy-tailed neuronal connectivity arises from Hebbian self-organization. Christopher W. Lynn et al. Nature Physics (2024). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-023-02332-9