Fragility and volatility of structural hubs in the human connectome
Brain structure reflects the influence of evolutionary processes that pit the costs of its anatomical wiring against the computational advantages conferred by its complexity. We show that cost-neutral ‘mutations’ of the human connectome almost inevitably degrade its complexity and disconnect high-strength connections to prefrontal network hubs. Conversely, restoring the peripheral location and strong connectivity of empirically observed hubs confers a wiring cost that the brain appears to minimize. Progressive cost-neutral randomization yields daughter networks that differ substantially from one another and results in a topologically unstable phenomenon consistent with a phase transition in complex systems. The fragility of hubs to disconnection shows a significant association with the acceleration of gray matter loss in schizophrenia. Together with effects on wiring cost, we suggest that fragile prefrontal hub connections and topological volatility act as evolutionary influences on brain networks whose optimal set point may be perturbed in neuropsychiatric disorders.