Evidence for functional networks within the human brain’s white matter

Michael Peer*, Mor Nitzan, Atira S. Bick, Netta Levin, Shahar Arzy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Investigation of the functional macro-scale organization of the human cortex is fundamental in modern neuroscience. Although numerous studies have identified networks of interacting functional modules in the gray-matter, limited research was directed to the functional organization of the white-matter. Recent studies have demonstrated that the white-matter exhibits blood oxygen level-dependent signal fluctuations similar to those of the gray-matter. Here we used these signal fluctuations to investigate whether the white-matter is organized as functional networks by applying a clustering analysis on resting-state functional MRI (RSfMRI) data from white-matter voxels, in 176 subjects (of both sexes). This analysis indicated the existence of 12 symmetrical white-matter functional networks, corresponding to combinations of white-matter tracts identified by diffusion tensor imaging. Six of the networks included interhemispheric commissural bridges traversing the corpus callosum. Signals in white-matter networks correlated with signals from functional gray matter networks, providing missing knowledge on how these distributed networks communicate across large distances. These findings were replicated in an independent subject group and were corroborated by seed-based analysis in small groups and individual subjects. The identified white-matter functional atlases and analysis codes are available at http://mind.huji.ac.il/white-matter.aspx. Our results demonstrate that the white-matter manifests an intrinsic functional organization as interacting networks of functional modules, similarly to the gray-matter, which can be investigated using RSfMRI. The discovery of functional networks within the white-matter may open new avenues of research in cognitive neuroscience and clinical neuropsychiatry.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6394-6407
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 the authors.


  • BOLD
  • Clustering
  • FMRI
  • Functional connectivity
  • Resting state
  • Tract


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