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Globally altered structural brain network topology in grapheme-color synesthesia


Hänggi, Jürgen; Wotruba, D; Jäncke, Lutz (2011). Globally altered structural brain network topology in grapheme-color synesthesia. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(15):5816-5828.

Abstract

Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimuli in one particular modality elicit a sensation within the same or another sensory modality (e.g., specific graphemes evoke the perception of particular colors). Grapheme-color synesthesia (GCS) has been proposed to arise from abnormal local cross-activation between grapheme and color areas because of their hyperconnectivity. Recently published studies did not confirm such a hyperconnectivity, although morphometric alterations were found in occipitotemporal, parietal, and frontal regions of synesthetes. We used magnetic resonance imaging surface-based morphometry and graph-theoretical network analyses to investigate the topology of structural brain networks in 24 synesthetes and 24 nonsynesthetes. Connectivity matrices were derived from region-wise cortical thickness correlations of 2366 different cortical parcellations across the whole cortex and from 154 more common brain divisions as well. Compared with nonsynesthetes, synesthetes revealed a globally altered structural network topology as reflected by reduced small-worldness, increased clustering, increased degree, and decreased betweenness centrality. Connectivity of the fusiform gyrus (FuG) and intraparietal sulcus (IPS) was changed as well. Hierarchical modularity analysis revealed increased intramodular and intermodular connectivity of the IPS in GCS. However, connectivity differences in the FuG and IPS showed a low specificity because of global changes. We provide first evidence that GCS is rooted in a reduced small-world network organization that is driven by increased clustering suggesting global hyperconnectivity within the synesthetes' brain. Connectivity alterations were widespread and not restricted to the FuG and IPS. Therefore, synesthetic experience might be only one phenotypic manifestation of the globally altered network architecture in GCS.

Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimuli in one particular modality elicit a sensation within the same or another sensory modality (e.g., specific graphemes evoke the perception of particular colors). Grapheme-color synesthesia (GCS) has been proposed to arise from abnormal local cross-activation between grapheme and color areas because of their hyperconnectivity. Recently published studies did not confirm such a hyperconnectivity, although morphometric alterations were found in occipitotemporal, parietal, and frontal regions of synesthetes. We used magnetic resonance imaging surface-based morphometry and graph-theoretical network analyses to investigate the topology of structural brain networks in 24 synesthetes and 24 nonsynesthetes. Connectivity matrices were derived from region-wise cortical thickness correlations of 2366 different cortical parcellations across the whole cortex and from 154 more common brain divisions as well. Compared with nonsynesthetes, synesthetes revealed a globally altered structural network topology as reflected by reduced small-worldness, increased clustering, increased degree, and decreased betweenness centrality. Connectivity of the fusiform gyrus (FuG) and intraparietal sulcus (IPS) was changed as well. Hierarchical modularity analysis revealed increased intramodular and intermodular connectivity of the IPS in GCS. However, connectivity differences in the FuG and IPS showed a low specificity because of global changes. We provide first evidence that GCS is rooted in a reduced small-world network organization that is driven by increased clustering suggesting global hyperconnectivity within the synesthetes' brain. Connectivity alterations were widespread and not restricted to the FuG and IPS. Therefore, synesthetic experience might be only one phenotypic manifestation of the globally altered network architecture in GCS.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neuroradiology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Clinical and Social Psychiatry Zurich West (former)
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:26 Oct 2011 10:23
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:03
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
Publisher DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0964-10.2011
PubMed ID:21490223
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-50333

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