Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 224, Issue 6, pp 2231–2245 | Cite as

A network approach to brain form, cortical topology and human evolution

  • Emiliano BrunerEmail author
  • Borja Esteve-Altava
  • Diego Rasskin-Gutman
Original Article


Network analysis provides a quantitative tool to investigate the topological properties of a system. In anatomy, it can be employed to investigate the spatial organization of body parts according to their contiguity and patterns of physical contact. In this study, we build a model representing the spatial adjacency of the major regions of the human brain often considered in evolutionary neuroanatomy, to analyse its topological features. Results suggest that the frontal lobe is topologically independent of the posterior regions of the brain, which in turn are more integrated and influenced by reciprocal constraints. The precentral gyrus represents a hinge between the anterior and posterior blocks. The lateral temporal cortex is particularly influenced by the neighbouring regions, while the parietal cortex is minimally constrained by the overall brain organization. Beyond the reciprocal spatial influences among cortical areas, brain form is further constrained by spatial and mechanical influence of the braincase, including bone and connective elements. The anterior fossa and the parietal bones are the elements more sensitive to the brain–braincase spatial organization. These topological properties must be properly considered when making inferences on evolutionary variations and macroscopic differences of the human brain morphology.


Anatomical network analysis Brain morphology Paleoneurology Functional craniology 



EB is funded by the Spanish Government (PGC2018-093925-B-C31). BE-A has received financial support through the Postdoctoral Junior Leader Fellowship Programme from “la Caixa” Banking Foundation (LCF/BQ/LI18/11630002) and thanks the support of the Unidad de Excelencia María de Maeztu (MDM-2014-0370). DR-G is funded by grant BFU2015-70927-R. We are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. The authors also thank Transmitting Science for promoting anatomical network analysis and this research project. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

429_2019_1900_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución HumanaBurgosSpain
  2. 2.Department of Experimental and Health SciencesInstitute of Evolutionary Biology (UPF-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Theoretical Biology Research Group, Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain

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