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Olaf Sporns

Olaf Sporns is Provost Professor and Head of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University. He is the author of Networks of the Brain (MIT Press, 2010).

Titles by This Author

Crucial to understanding how the brain works is connectivity, and the centerpiece of brain connectivity is the connectome, a comprehensive description of how neurons and brain regions are connected. The human brain is a network of extraordinary complexity—a network not by way of metaphor, but in a precise and mathematical sense: an intricate web of billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses. How this network is connected is important for virtually all facets of the brain’s integrative function. In this book, Olaf Sporns surveys current efforts to chart these connections—to map the human connectome.

Sporns, a pioneer in the field who was the first to define and use the term "connectome," argues that the nascent field of connectomics has already begun to influence the way many neuroscientists collect, analyze, and think about their data. Moreover, the idea of mapping the connections of the human brain in their entirety has captured the imaginations of researchers across several disciplines including human cognition, brain and mental disorders, and complex systems and networks. Sporns describes the biological and conceptual foundations of the connectome; the many research challenges it faces; the many cutting-edge empirical strategies, from electron microscopy to magnetic resonance imaging, deployed to map brain connectivity; the relationship between structure and function; and the wide array of network computational approaches to connectomics. Discovering the Human Connectome offers the first comprehensive overview of current empirical and computational approaches in this rapidly developing field.

Over the last decade, the study of complex networks has expanded across diverse scientific fields. Increasingly, science is concerned with the structure, behavior, and evolution of complex systems ranging from cells to ecosystems. Modern network approaches are beginning to reveal fundamental principles of brain architecture and function, and in Networks of the Brain, Olaf Sporns describes how the integrative nature of brain function can be illuminated from a complex network perspective. Highlighting the many emerging points of contact between neuroscience and network science, the book serves to introduce network theory to neuroscientists and neuroscience to those working on theoretical network models.

Brain networks span the microscale of individual cells and synapses and the macroscale of cognitive systems and embodied cognition. Sporns emphasizes how networks connect levels of organization in the brain and how they link structure to function. In order to keep the book accessible and focused on the relevance to neuroscience of network approaches, he offers an informal and nonmathematical treatment of the subject. After describing the basic concepts of network theory and the fundamentals of brain connectivity, Sporns discusses how network approaches can reveal principles of brain architecture. He describes new links between network anatomy and function and investigates how networks shape complex brain dynamics and enable adaptive neural computation. The book documents the rapid pace of discovery and innovation while tracing the historical roots of the field.

The study of brain connectivity has already opened new avenues of study in neuroscience. Networks of the Brain offers a synthesis of the sciences of complex networks and the brain that will be an essential foundation for future research.