In cerebral cortex, the huge mass of axonal wiring that carries information between near and distant neurons is thought to provide the neural substrate for cognitive and perceptual function. The goal of mapping the connectivity of cortical axons at different spatial scales, the cortical connectome, is to trace the paths of information flow in cerebral cortex. To appreciate the relationship between the connectome and cortical function, we need to discover the nature and purpose of the wiring principles underlying cortical connectivity. A popular explanation has been that axonal length is strictly minimized both within and between cortical regions. In contrast, we have hypothesized the existence of a multi-scale principle of cortical wiring where to optimise communication there is a trade-off between spatial (construction) and temporal (routing) costs. Here, using recent evidence concerning cortical spatial networks we critically evaluate this hypothesis at neuron, local circuit, and pathway scales. We report three main conclusions. First, the axonal and dendritic arbor morphology of single neocortical neurons may be governed by a similar wiring principle, one that balances the conservation of cellular material and conduction delay. Second, the same principle may be observed for fibre tracts connecting cortical regions. Third, the absence of sufficient local circuit data currently prohibits any meaningful assessment of the hypothesis at this scale of cortical organization. To avoid neglecting neuron and microcircuit levels of cortical organization, the connectome framework should incorporate more morphological description. In addition, structural analyses of temporal cost for cortical circuits should take account of both axonal conduction and neuronal integration delays, which appear mostly of the same order of magnitude. We conclude the hypothesized trade-off between spatial and temporal costs may potentially offer a powerful explanation for cortical wiring patterns.
- Cerebral Cortex
- Ramón y Cajal
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience