The topological architecture of the cerebral anatomical network reflects the structural organization of the human brain. Recently, topological measures based on graph theory have provided new approaches for quantifying large-scale anatomical networks. Diffusion MRI studies have revealed the efficient small-world properties and modular structure of the anatomical network in normal subjects. However, no previous study has used diffusion MRI to reveal changes in the brain anatomical network in early blindness. Here, we utilized diffusion tensor imaging to construct binary anatomical networks for 17 early blind subjects and 17 age- and gender-matched sighted controls. We established the existence of structural connections between any pair of the 90 cortical and sub-cortical regions using deterministic tractography. Compared with controls, early blind subjects showed a decreased degree of connectivity, a reduced global efficiency, and an increased characteristic path length in their brain anatomical network, especially in the visual cortex. Moreover, we revealed some regions with motor or somatosensory function have increased connections with other brain regions in the early blind, which suggested experience-dependent compensatory plasticity. This study is the first to show alterations in the topological properties of the anatomical network in early blindness. From the results, we suggest that analyzing the brain's anatomical network obtained using diffusion MRI data provides new insights into the understanding of the brain's re-organization in the specific population with early visual deprivation. © 2009 Shu et al.
Shu, N., Liu, Y., Li, J., Li, Y., Yu, C., & Jiang, T. (2009). Altered anatomical network in early blindness revealed by diffusion tensor tractography. PLoS ONE, 4(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0007228