The Role of Hub Neurons in Modulating Cortical Dynamics

Eyal Gal*, Oren Amsalem*, Alon Schindel, Michael London, Felix Schürmann, Henry Markram, Idan Segev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Many neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the death of specific neuron types in particular brain regions. What makes the death of specific neuron types particularly harmful for the integrity and dynamics of the respective network is not well understood. To start addressing this question we used the most up-to-date biologically realistic dense neocortical microcircuit (NMC) of the rodent, which has reconstructed a volume of 0.3 mm3 and containing 31,000 neurons, ∼37 million synapses, and 55 morphological cell types arranged in six cortical layers. Using modern network science tools, we identified hub neurons in the NMC, that are connected synaptically to a large number of their neighbors and systematically examined the impact of abolishing these cells. In general, the structural integrity of the network is robust to cells’ attack; yet, attacking hub neurons strongly impacted the small-world topology of the network, whereas similar attacks on random neurons have a negligible effect. Such hub-specific attacks are also impactful on the network dynamics, both when the network is at its spontaneous synchronous state and when it was presented with synchronized thalamo-cortical visual-like input. We found that attacking layer 5 hub neurons is most harmful to the structural and functional integrity of the NMC. The significance of our results for understanding the role of specific neuron types and cortical layers for disease manifestation is discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number718270
JournalFrontiers in Neural Circuits
StatePublished - 24 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Gal, Amsalem, Schindel, London, Schürmann, Markram and Segev.


  • cell ablation strategy
  • cortical microcircuitry
  • hub neurons
  • network science
  • network synchronicity
  • scale free network
  • small world topology


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