Algebraic topology and the brain

The Intrepid Mathematician

What is the connectome?

Networks are everywhere: the roads in cities, links in the web, and the neural pathways in our brains. The science of networks is a trending topic interfacing with many disciplines. Mathematics, as you would expect, plays a major role in understanding the properties, structure, and evolution of networks.

The connectome is a network consisting of the neural pathways within a brain. Think of it as a set of wires linking different regions of the brain with their many diverse functions. Neuroscientists distinguish between white and gray brain matter. White matter is analogous to highways connecting the cities of gray matter.

Andreas Horn Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin The human connectome.

Connectomics is fairly recent topic in neuroscience, emerging from the work of Olaf Sporns and Patric Hagmann in 2005. As a new field within neuroscience, it uses tools from mathematics and big data to help map the brain and its various functions, often using MRIs to probe the brain’s…

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