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The functional brain favours segregated modular connectivity at old age unless affected by neurodegeneration

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Joe Necus, Dr Ramtin Mehraram, Professor John O'Brien, Professor Andrew BlamireORCiD, Professor Marcus Kaiser, Professor John-Paul TaylorORCiD


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© 2021, The Author(s).Brain’s modular connectivity gives this organ resilience and adaptability. The ageing process alters the organised modularity of the brain and these changes are further accentuated by neurodegeneration, leading to disorganisation. To understand this further, we analysed modular variability—heterogeneity of modules—and modular dissociation—detachment from segregated connectivity—in two ageing cohorts and a mixed cohort of neurodegenerative diseases. Our results revealed that the brain follows a universal pattern of high modular variability in metacognitive brain regions: the association cortices. The brain in ageing moves towards a segregated modular structure despite presenting with increased modular heterogeneity—modules in older adults are not only segregated, but their shape and size are more variable than in young adults. In the presence of neurodegeneration, the brain maintains its segregated connectivity globally but not locally, and this is particularly visible in dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia; overall, the modular brain shows patterns of differentiated pathology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chen X, Necus J, Peraza LR, Mehraram R, Wang Y, O'Brien JT, Blamire A, Kaiser M, Taylor J-P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Communications Biology

Year: 2021

Volume: 4

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 16/08/2021

Acceptance date: 22/07/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2399-3642

Publisher: Nature Research


DOI: 10.1038/s42003-021-02497-0


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