Identification and Classification of Hubs in Brain
Olaf Sporns1*, Christopher J. Honey1, Rolf Ko ¨tter2,3
1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Program in Cognitive Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, United States of
America, 2Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Section Neurophysiology & Neuroinformatics, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands, 3C. & O. Vogt Brain Research Institute and Institute of Anatomy II, Heinrich Heine University, Du ¨sseldorf, Germany
Brain regions in the mammalian cerebral cortex are linked by a complex network of fiber bundles. These inter-regional
networks have previously been analyzed in terms of their node degree, structural motif, path length and clustering coefficient
distributions. In this paper we focus on the identification and classification of hub regions, which are thought to play pivotal
roles in the coordination of information flow. We identify hubs and characterize their network contributions by examining
motif fingerprints and centrality indices for all regions within the cerebral cortices of both the cat and the macaque. Motif
fingerprints capture the statistics of local connection patterns, while measures of centrality identify regions that lie on many of
the shortest paths between parts of the network. Within both cat and macaque networks, we find that a combination of
degree, motif participation, betweenness centrality and closeness centrality allows for reliable identification of hub regions,
many of which have previously been functionally classified as polysensory or multimodal. We then classify hubs as either
provincial (intra-cluster) hubs or connector (inter-cluster) hubs, and proceed to show that lesioning hubs of each type from the
network produces opposite effects on the small-world index. Our study presents an approach to the identification and
classification of putative hub regions in brain networks on the basis of multiple network attributes and charts potential links
between the structural embedding of such regions and their functional roles.
Citation: Sporns O, Honey CJ, Ko ¨tter R (2007) Identification and Classification of Hubs in Brain Networks. PLoS ONE 2(10): e1049. doi:10.1371/
Large-scale cortical networks, comprising anatomically distinct
regions and inter-regional pathways [1–3], exhibit specific non-
random connection patterns . The structural (i.e. topological)
features of large-scale cortical networks are of special interest as they
may be linked to aspects of brain function. Structural analyses have
utilized a wide spectrum of graph theoretic measures [5,6] including
clustering coefficients and the distributions of node degrees, path
lengths and structural motifs. Brain networks have been found to
exhibit high levels of clustering combined with short average path
lengths, a pattern indicative of a small-world architecture [7–11]. It
has further been argued that the structural characteristics of brain
networks contribute to their functional organization by promoting
functional segregation and integration [12,13], high neural com-
plexity [8,14], the minimization of processing steps , efficient
wiring  and synchronizability .
Global structural parameters can reveal the organization of an
entire network, but they cannot capture the contributions of
individual network elements (e.g. brain regions). The manner in
which individual brain regions are embedded within the overall
processing architecture may determine how they participate within
the dynamics of the network. Passingham et al.  formulated the
hypothesis that the connectional fingerprint of a brain area (i.e. its
specific pattern of efferent and afferent connections within the
network) might define its functional role. Network participation
indices capturing some local statistics of degree distributions (density,
transmission, and symmetry; ) revealed significant differences
across brain regions in macaque cortex and highlighted the relations
between their individual topological and functional characteristics.
An analysis of the contributions of individual brain regions to the
global distribution of structural motifs within macaque visual cortex
Several EEG, MEG and fMRI studies have collected functional
network indices of individual brain regions [21,22], revealing
changes in regional network indices in response to experimental
perturbation [22,23]. In recent work with a large-scale cortical
model  we observed that structurally central brain regions
tended also to have elevated centrality within corresponding
functional networks. Some hub regions appeared to link multiple
functional clusters (e.g. visual and sensorimotor) while others
occupied central positions within a single functional cluster.
In this paper we aim to more fully characterize the structural
embedding of both types of hub regions in brain networks and to
determine whether our results can be extended beyond the brain
of a single species. Examining large-scale connection matrices for
macaque and cat cortex we focus on structural motif distributions
and centrality measures of vertices with high degree because of
their potential for relating local processing characteristics to global
functional interactions and robustness in these networks. Motifs
are classes of subgraphs from which larger networks can be
composed [25,26]. Centrality measures, in general, capture the
structural importance of a vertex with respect to the rest of the
network . While hubs are often identified solely on the basis of
their high degree, the relationships between degree, motif
contributions as well as betweenness centrality and closeness
Academic Editor: Marcus Kaiser, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom
Received June 25, 2007; Accepted October 1, 2007; Published October 17, 2007
Copyright: ? 2007 Sporns et al. This is an open-access article distributed under
the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original author and source are credited.
Funding: RK acknowledges support by the DFG KO 1560/6-2. OS, CH and RK were
supported by the J.S. McDonnell Foundation. We thank Aviad Rubinstein for help
in implementing graph analysis methods.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: email@example.com
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centrality of individual brain regions have not previously been
investigated in detail. We show that the intersection of node
degree, motif fingerprint, betweenness and closeness allows the
identification of hub regions, many of which have previously been
classified as polysensory or multimodal. We then classify these hub
regions into provincial and connector hubs [22,28], a distinction
that is based on whether they tend to link other vertices within
a single module or whether they link different modules to one
another. We show that lesioning of provincial hubs decreases the
small world index while lesioning connector hubs produces the
cortex‘‘ and ‘‘cat cortex’’. Macaque cortex and cat cortex contain
predominantly isocortical brain regions. All data sets consist of binary
connection matrices of brain regions connected by inter-regional
area names and abbreviations are provides in the Supporting
Information (Text S1). Data sets can be also be downloaded at
Macaque cortex is an updated network matrix generated
following the parcellation scheme of Felleman and Van Essen ,
including visual, somatosensory and motor cortical regions as well
as their interconnections . The data were manually collated in
the CoCoMac database from published tracing studies according
to standard procedures [29,30]. Subsequently, all relevant data
were translated algorithmically to the Felleman and Van Essen
map using coordinate-independent mapping [9,31]. Following
resolution of redundant and inconsistent results a binary connec-
tion matrix with N=47 and K=505 was generated. To estimate
projection lengths we calculated distances between center-of-mass
coordinates for each connected pair of brain regions using the
Caret macaque cortex surface map (http://brainmap.wustl.edu/
caret; ), as previously described .
Cat cortex is derived from the matrix published by Scannell et
al. . We discarded area Hipp (hippocampus) and all thalamic
regions and thalamo-cortical pathways. The resulting matrix was
converted to binary format and has N=52 and K=818.
Graph Theory Methods
Graphs are composed of vertices (or nodes, here equivalent to brain
regions) and edges (or connections, here equivalent to inter-regional
pathways). The connectivity structure of a graph is represented by its
adjacency matrix, here an asymmetric binary matrix representing
directed but unweighted edges. Paths are ordered sequences of edges
linking pairs of vertices (a source and a target). The distance between
two vertices corresponds to the length (number of edges) of the
shortest path between them. The distance matrix of a graph
comprises all pair-wise distances. Its maximum corresponds to the
graph diameter, its minimum to the graph radius, and its average to
the graph’s characteristic path length.
Basic graph measures such as connection density, proportion of
reciprocal connections, degree distributions, measures derived from
the distance matrix (diameter, radius, path length), and clustering
coefficients were calculated using standard graph theory methods,
reviewed indetail elsewhere(;a Matlab (Mathworks, Natick,MA)
toolbox as well as other files related to this paper can be downloaded
Network topology may be said to correspond to a ‘‘small world’’
 if the network’s clustering coefficient is much greater than
that of equivalent random controls c..crandom, while their path
lengths are comparable l<lrandom. The small-world index ssw,
introduced by Humphries et al , is defined as:
Comparisons are carried out against populations of n=1000
degree-matched random networks (see below).
Structural motifs (or subgraphs) of size M consist of M vertices and
a set of edges (maximally M22M, for directed graphs, minimally
M21 with connectedness ensured). For each motif size M there is
a limited set of distinct motif classes. For example, there are 13
motif classes for motif size M=3. A Matlab toolbox for detecting
and counting motifs of sizes 2#M#5 is available at http://
comparison to two different random models that jointly control for
the effect of degree sequences and potential neighborhood relations.
Two populations of control networks (both with n=100 exemplars)
wereconstructed, using a Markov switching algorithm that preserves
degree sequences . The first population of controls, the
‘Random’ (randomized) networks, preserved the number of network
vertices and edges as well as their degree sequences. For each
random network, 26106switches were carried out. The second
population of controls, ‘Lattice’ (latticized) networks, were con-
structed like random networks, but in addition edges are
redistributed such that they lie close to the main diagonal of the
connection matrix (after an initial random permutation of the
vertices). This approach tends to generate randomized networks that
incorporate nearest-neighbor connectivity as found in a ring or
lattice topology. Thus, lattice networks incorporate a variant of local
aggregation or neighborhood relations between vertices, a feature
not captured by the random null hypothesis . Motif counts were
considered statistically significant if z-scores exceeded+2, +3, or
higher values for comparisons to both random controls as well as
lattice control networks (n=100).
Central vertices in a network are those that have structural or
functional importance, for example by serving as waystations for
network traffic (analogous to bridges or connectors) or by
influencing many other vertices through short and direct paths.
Several concepts and measures of centrality have been proposed
 that capture the degree of ‘‘betweenness’’  or ‘‘closeness’’
 of a vertex within the overall network architecture. The
closeness centrality of vertex i is calculated as the inverse of the
average distance from this vertex to all other vertices in the
network (i.e. the inverse of the row mean of the distance matrix):
The definition is suitable if the graph G is fully connected, as is
the case for all data sets considered in this study. Note that our
definition of closeness centrality uses the lengths of all outgoing
shortest paths starting from a central vertex; other definitions of
closeness centrality are possible based on the lengths of incoming
shortest paths (‘‘in-closeness centrality’’), or all distances. It is also
worth noting that closeness centrality is directly proportional
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(scaled up by a factor N(N-1)2) to the local ‘‘efficiency’’ that was
later defined in  and employed in the analysis of functional
brain networks .
The betweenness centrality of a vertex is here defined as the
fraction of shortest paths between any pair of vertices that travel
through the vertex . The betweenness centrality of a vertex i is
where rst(i) is the total number of shortest paths between a source
vertex s and a target vertex t that pass through i, and rstis the total
number of all shortest paths linking s to t. To calculate betweenness
centrality we applied an efficient Matlab algorithm developed by
Community Structure and Hub Classification
To identify modules (communities) within each network, we apply
a variant of a spectral community detection algorithm . As
inputs to the algorithm we used matrices of matching indices ,
Figure 1. Connection matrices and matching index matrices for data sets examined in this study. Plots show structural connections (left panels)
and matching index (right panels). Connection patterns are represented as binary connection matrices Cij, with existing connections (edges)
indicated by a filled (black) square (cij=1). No distinction is made between connections that have been shown to be absent and connections that are
unknown; all are represented by a white square (cij=0). Main diagonals are indicated in grey and self-connections are excluded (cii=0). From top to
bottom: (A) Macaque cortex (N=47, K=505). (B) Cat cortex (N=52, K=820). Panels on the right show the matching index matrix Mijcalculated from
the connection matrix following Hilgetag et al. . The matching index scales between 0 (no match) and 1 (perfect match), and mij=mji. The
arrangement of brain regions for each of the four matrices was arrived at as follows. The Mijmatrix was converted to a distance matrix, from which
a hierarchical cluster tree was computed using a consecutive linking procedure based on farthest inter-cluster distances. This resulted in a linear
ordering of areas based on cluster membership and inter-cluster distances. The ordering was rotated such that visual areas appear topmost.
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which express the similarity of connection patterns for each pair of
vertices (Figure 1). Once modules were detected, different solutions
were ranked according to a cost function and the optimal
modularity (out of 10000 solutions for a range of between 2 and
6 modules) was used as the basis for hub classification. To classify
hubs we calculated each vertex’s participation index P [28,42],
which expresses its distribution of intra- versus intra-module
connections. P of vertex i is defined as
where NMis the number of identified modules, kiis the degree of
node i, and kisis the number of edges from the ith node to nodes
within module s.
Considering only high-degree vertices (i.e. vertices with a degree
at least one standard deviation above the network mean) we
classify vertices with a participation coefficient P,0.3 as provincial
hubs, and nodes with P.0.3 as connector hubs. Since P cannot
exceed 0.5 for two-module networks and 0.67 for three-module
networks, kinless hubs (i.e. nodes with P.0.8 [32c]) cannot occur
in these mammalian cortical networks.
We calculated network measures and motif distributions for two
mammalian connectivity data sets, macaque cortex and cat cortex
(see Methods). The connectivity data sets are shown inFigure1,with
brain areas arranged according to a cluster analysis based on the
the overlap in afferent and efferent connections between two areas,
and previous studies have suggested that areas with low pair-wise
similarity in their patterns of afferents and efferents tend to have
different functional properties . The matching index matrix,
when subjected to cluster analysis, then serves to group areas. For
macaque and cat cortex, the resulting arrangement of areas
resembles the major functional subdivisions (e.g. visual, sensorimo-
tor, auditory, prefrontal) of mammalian cerebral cortex, confirming
that groups of functionally related areas share connection patterns.
The connection matrices for macaque and cat cortex were of
similar size and density. Both matrices contained a high fraction of
reciprocal pathways (0.76 in the macaque cortex, 0.74 in the cat
cortex). Vertex degrees for each matrix are shown in Figure 2. In
both matrices, degrees varied over a broad range without
presenting evidence of a scale-free organization. For the remainder
of this paper all areas with a degree that is at least one standard
deviation greater than the mean are termed ‘‘high-degree areas’’
(Figure 2). Both networks were fully connected, and the maximal
distances (diameter) did not exceed four edges. Average path
lengths and clustering coefficients indicated that macaque and cat
cortex exhibit small-world attributes, confirming several earlier
reports on similar data sets (reviewed in ). The degree to which
each network resembles a small world can be quantified by the
small-world index , found to be ssw=1.4551 (60.0408) for
macaque cortex and ssw=1.3153 (60.0148) for cat cortex (mean
and s.d., n=1000 random networks).
Figure 2. Degree of areas in macaque and cat cortex. The degree of each area of macaque cortex (A) and cat cortex (B) is calculated as the sum over
all row and column entries for that area in the matrix of structural connections (Fig. 1). High-degree areas are all areas with a degree greater than the
network mean plus one standard deviation. In this, and in all subsequent figures in this paper, these high-degree areas are labeled in yellow.
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We derived structural motif frequency spectra for motifs of size
M=3 for both connection matrices (data not shown). Confirming
earlier results for similar connection patterns , motif spectra
for macaque and cat cortex were highly correlated (r2=0.88,
p,1025) and both data sets exhibited an overabundance of a single
motif class, here denoted M3
9(see Figure 3). Overabundance was
assessed by computing z-scores for comparisons to n=100
equivalent control networks (random and lattice, see Methods).
A motif was considered ‘‘significantly increased’’ if, relative to both
random and lattice control networks, its z-scores exceeded z=3.
We note that lattice controls have near-equal proportions of
reciprocal edges as compared to the actual data sets, indicating
that a high proportion of reciprocal edges alone does not explain
the overabundance of motif M3
9. Motif analysis for larger motifs
(M=4, M=5) identified several motif classes as significantly
increased over both random and lattice controls, including various
tilings of motif M3
9 into ring and star patterns (data not
Figure 3. Statistical significance of motif participation for individual brain regions. (A) Macaque cortex. (B) Cat cortex. Each plot shows z-scores
(half circles, light blue=relative to random networks, dark blue=relative to lattice networks) for each individual area. Areas with significantly positive
z-scores for both comparisons are marked in shades of red (see legend). These areas are marked identically in Fig. 4. High-degree areas are marked by
yellow arrows. Motif classes of size M=3 are shown at the upper right of the plot.
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Individual brain regions make specific contributions to the
overall motif distribution of the network. Specifically, we sought to
identify regions that disproportionately contribute to motif class
9in macaque and cat cortex. To pinpoint locations where
aggregations of specific motifs might occur we examined all the
participating individual areas in particular structural motifs. The
preservation of degree sequences for random and lattice control
networks allowed the identification of control vertices that
corresponded to those in the real data set, which enabled us to
perform statistical comparisons of motif participation on a
vertex-by-vertex basis. Figure 3 shows significance profiles for
individual brain regions in macaque and cat cortex, revealing that
individual brain regions made very different contributions to the
global motif frequency spectrum. In macaque and cat cortex the
majority of significantly increased contributions involved motif
9. In the macaque, motifs with participation significantly
increased from both random and lattice networks were M3
11 vertices) and M3
12(for 3 vertices), while in the cat significant
increases were observed in M3
11(for 4 vertices). In macaque areas
with increased contributions to M3
the dorsal stream of visual processing (MSTd, DP) or in
polysensory integration (7a, 7b, STPp, 46, Ig), with the notable
exception of areas VP and V4 that are believed to be components
of the ventral visual processing stream. Significantly increased
9in the cat also occurred among a subset of polysensory
regions (PLLS, 20a, EPp, PFCL, Ia, CGp, RS), notably extending
also to ‘higher’ motor (area 6 m) and sensory (visual: area 19;
somatosensory: SII, SIV) regions.
Motif fingerprints summarize the participation of individual
brain regions in specific motif classes . We derived motif
fingerprints for all brain areas of macaque and cat cortex and then
performed hierarchical cluster analysis and principal components
analysis on these fingerprints to reveal clusters of brain regions
with similar motif fingerprints (Figure 4). We found that macaque
and cat motif fingerprints formed approximately equal numbers of
clusters, and that several of the average motif fingerprints of these
clusters shared substantial similarity. The two main clusters for
macaque and cat (labeled ‘‘c’’ and ‘‘f’’ in Fig. 4A,B) yielded highly
similar average motif fingerprints. Following principal components
analysis these two patterns were placed in close proximity
(Figure 4). All areas with significantly increased participation for
9were found within these two clusters (with the exception
of area PLLS in cat cortex). The cluster structure observed in cat
and macaque cortex did not appear if cluster analysis was carried
out on degree-matched random or lattice control networks.
Area V4 participates in 136 instances (out of 721) of motif M3
the largest contribution of any area in macaque cortex. In 96 of
these instances area V4 is found at the central apex of this motif
(Fig. 5A, inset). We define the apex ratio as the fraction of apex
locations out of all instances of motif M3
0.701 for area V4 (random placement would yield an apex ratio of
1/3). Apex ratios for all areas in macaque and cat cortex are
shown in Figure 5A. In both species, all high-degree areas exhibit
high apex ratios for motif M3
9. High contributions to motif class
9, combined with a high apex ratio, should be associated with
low values for the clustering coefficient, as only a relatively small
fraction of neighbors are connected with one another. Figure 5B
shows that clustering coefficients are indeed found to be below the
network mean for all high-degree areas.
Apex ratios and clustering coefficients suggest that brain regions
with significantly increased contributions to motif M3
topological hubs of reciprocal edges, linking many diverse vertices.
We might expect that these local waystations have high network
4(for 4 vertices), M3
8(for 3 vertices),
9(for 17 vertices), and M3
9participated in the majority in
9, yielding an apex ratio of
centrality. Of the numerous available centrality measures we
calculated two: betweenness centrality (; Fig. 6A) and closeness
centrality (; Figure 6B). Betweenness centrality captures the
degree to which a given brain region participates in the set of
shortest paths between any pair of vertices in the network.
Closeness centrality captures the average closeness (defined as the
inverse of the shortest path length) to all other vertices. In macaque
cortex, areas V4, 46, 7a and 7b (previously identified as making
significantly increased contributions to motif M3
apex ratios as well as low clustering coefficients) are among those
with the highest betweenness centrality as well as closeness
centrality. In cat cortex, areas CGp, EPp, Ia, and 20a share the
same characteristics. Without exception, and in both species, areas
with high degree have greater than average centrality.
All of the measures considered so far are interrelated, primarily
through the most basic characteristic of each vertex, its degree. As
expected, degree and clustering coefficient (r2=0.44 in macaque,
r2=0.67 in cat) and degree and betweenness (r2=0.68 in
macaque, r2=0.68 in cat) are moderately cross-correlated. Among
motif classes, centrality is on average most strongly correlated with
while other highly connected motifs (e.g. M3
levels. Tables 1 and 2 summarize our analysis for all high-degree
nodes in macaque and cat cortex. On the basis of several
intersecting criteria, we can identify areas V4, FEF, 46, 7a, TF, 5,
and 7b as the strongest candidates for hub regions in macaque
cortex, while areas CGp, 35, AES, Ia, 20a and EPp are the
strongest candidates for hub regions in cat cortex.
Once network hubs have been identified, hubs may be classified
on the basis of whether their connections are distributed mostly
within or mostly between network modules [28,42]. Hubs may
also be classified on the basis of their spatial embedding, e.g. the
distribution of the metric lengths of their projections . We
pursued both approaches to hub classification. We applied
a spectral community detection algorithm  to identify modules
within macaque and cat cortex. We extracted optimal community
structures with 2 (macaque) and 3 modules (cat). Figure 7A plots
the participation coefficient P, which expresses, for each area, the
balance between connections that are made within and between
modules. Following a previously published classification scheme
[28,42], we denote high-degree areas with P.0.3 as connector
hubs, while high-degree areas with P,0.3 are denoted as
provincial hubs (Table 1,2). In macaque cortex, the majority of
hubs are connectors, while areas V4 and MT, as well as the less
highly connected yet highly central area SII are classified as
provincial hubs. In cat cortex, all high-degree areas are classified
as connector hubs. The absence of clearly defined provincial hubs
may point to a difference in the structural organization of network
modules in the two species.
To visualize the structural embedding of a provincial and
a connector hub, we plotted two submatrices of macaque visual
cortex, comprising area V4 (a provincial hub) and area 46 (a
connector hub) together with their immediate topological
neighbors (Figure 7B,C). The V4 submatrix (Figure 7B, left) and
a corresponding cortical surface representation (Figure 7B, right)
indicates that virtually all of V4’s neighbors are located within
visual cortex, with most of V4’s inter-regional connections
spanning relatively short distances (17.09 mm69.60 mm s.d.).
Of its 42 connections with other areas, 23 are shorter than the
network’s mean connection length of 18 mm (Table 1). The graph
structure of the V4 submatrix (Figure 7B, middle) suggests that V4
mediates information flow between two groups of areas, one
belonging predominantly to the dorsal visual stream (with the
exception of area VP) and the other belonging to the ventral visual
9, and having high
9(r2=0.55 in macaque cortex, r2=0.67 in cat cortex)
13) reach comparable
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stream (with the exception of area 46, a connector hub). In
contrast, corresponding plots for area 46 (Figure 7C) reveal that
this area maintains a more diverse set of projections, including
visual, somatosensory and motor regions. Many of the connections
of area 46 were found to span long distances (33.41 mm6
10.58 mm s.d.; significantly different from those of V4, p,0.0001,
with 35 of its 39 connections longer than 18 mm), although we
note that some short projections are likely missing because other
prefrontal regions were not included in the connection matrix.
Connector hubs are very highly interconnected amongst them-
selves, forming ‘‘hub complexes’’ with a connection density of 0.81
(macaque) and 0.85 (cat). For comparison, submatrices of areas
with identical degrees sampled from randomized control networks
have connection densities of 0.6960.06 (n=1000, p,0.02) in
macaque and 0.7660.03 (n=1000, p,0.01) in cat cortex.
Lesions of hubs may be expected to have unusually large
consequences on information flow and communication within the
remaining network. Such consequences may structurally be
assessed by plotting changes in the network’s path length and
clustering coefficient following the lesion. Our analysis shows that
the effect of lesioning a single area on the network’s small-world
index is just as likely to be positive as negative. Figure 8
summarizes the impact of single area lesions on the small-world
index for macaque cortex and cat cortex. In macaque cortex,
lesions of connector hubs such as FEF, 46, 7a, 7b (or more
generally, areas with high participation coefficient) resulted in
large increases in the small-world index relative to the unlesioned
network. This effect is due to an increase in cluster distance
(expressed in an increase in path length) as well as an increase in
their segregation from each other (expressed in an even greater
increase in clustering). In contrast, lesions of provincial hubs (e.g.
area V4) or more generally of areas with low participation
coefficient (e.g. area SII) resulted in decreases of the small-world
index. This decrease is due to a decrease in clustering
Figure 4. Hierarchical cluster analysis of motif fingerprints for individual brain regions. (A) Dendrogram and clustered motif fingerprints for
macaque cortex (top) and cat cortex (bottom). The dendrogram was constructed from the Pearson correlations between all pairs of motif fingerprints
(normalized) using a consecutive linking procedure based on farthest inter-cluster distances. This results in a dendrogram with smaller distances for
areas with more similar motif fingerprints. Stippled lines mark 2/3-maximal distance, at which cluster boundaries were drawn for subsequent analysis.
Motif fingerprints for individual brain regions are arranged vertically by hierarchical cluster distance. Four distinct clusters per network are delineated
and clusters with more than 2 members are marked ‘‘a’’, ‘‘b’’, ‘‘c’’ for macaque cortex, and ‘‘d’’, ‘‘e’’, ‘‘f’’ for cat cortex. (B) The average motif fingerprints
for these six clusters are used to perform principal components analysis (PCA); a PCA plot spanning the two largest principal axes is shown. Average
motif fingerprints are plotted as segmented circles, with circle size proportional to the number of contributing areas within the cluster, and motif
classes represented around the circle (see inset). Note the proximity of several regional clusters with highly similar average motif fingerprints,
especially clusters ‘‘c’’ (macaque cortex) and ‘‘f’’ (cat cortex).
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Figure 5. Apex ratio for motif M3
region at the apex (central node) of all motifs of class M3
degree areas are displayed with yellow bars, others are displayed with gray bars. Horizontal lines mark the mean apex ratio (solid line) and the mean
plus one standard deviation (dashed line). Panel B shows the ranked clustering coefficient for each area of macaque and cat cortex, with high-degree
areas once again shown in yellow. Horizontal lines mark the mean clustering coefficient (solid line) and the mean minus one standard deviation
9and clustering coefficients in macaque and cat cortex. The apex ratio (A) reflects the incidence of a given brain
9that the region participates in (see inset). Areas are displayed in decreasing order. High-
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Figure 6. Centrality measures in macaque and cat cortex. (A) Betweenness centrality, calculated as the fraction of all shortest paths traveling
through a given vertex (see Methods). (B) Closeness centrality, calculated as the inverse of the average length of the shortest paths linking a given
vertex to all others in the network (see Methods). Areas are ranked in decreasing order, with high-degree areas shown in yellow. Horizontal lines mark
mean centrality (solid line) and mean plus one standard deviation (dashed line).
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accompanied by a smaller effect (an increase or a decrease) in the
path length. Similar patterns were found in cat cortex, with lesions
of high-degree connector hubs such as Ia and CGp resulting in
a higher small-world index, while lesioning of areas with lower
participation coefficient had the opposite effect. In both, macaque
and cat cortex, distributions of small-world lesion effects and
participation coefficients over all areas are highly and significantly
correlated (see Text S1). These results indicate that lesions of hub
regions belonging to different classes may have differential effects
on the small-world structure of the remaining network.
In this paper, we have examined the structural contributions of
individual cortical areas to large-scale cortical networks of the cat
and the macaque monkey. Earlier studies have provided evidence
for a high degree of clustering and short path lengths within
cortical networks of cat and macaque [7,8,10]. Such small-world
networks likely contain a subset of areas that act as hubs or bridges
which should be identifiable based on structural attributes that
relate to their functional roles. Using multiple structural measures
we identified sets of such areas in both cat and macaque cortex
and demonstrated marked similarities across brain functional
systems and species. High degree regions made significantly
increased contributions to structural motif M3
have high centrality. We separated hub regions into provincial and
connector classes, and showed that lesions of the two types of hubs
had opposite effects on the small-world organization of the
9and also tended to
Table 1. Summary of results for hub identification and hub classification for high-degree areas in macaque cortex.
area name hub identificationhub classification
Measures listed under ‘hub identification’’: k=degree (Figure 2), M3
(Figure 5A), c=clustering coefficient (Figure 5B), CB
all measures summarized under hub identification (except motif z-scores), table entries refer to rank within the respective
distribution. No rank is given if the measure deviated by less than one standard deviation from the mean. Measures listed under
hub classification refer to the participation index P (Fig. 7A), the number of long versus short connections (long connections are
defined as having a length greater than the network average of 18 mm), and the direction of the lesion effect on the small-world
index (les+and les-, respectively) refer to an increase or a decrease over the small-world index of the unlesioned matrix by more
than one standard deviation; see Figure 8.
9=z-score relative to random and lattice controls (Figure 3), ap=apex ratio
i=betweenness centrality (Figure 6A), CC
i=closeness centrality (Figure 6B). For
Table 2. Summary of results for hub identification and hub classification for high-degree areas in cat cortex.
area namehub identification hub classification
All symbols are as for Table 1.
Hubs in Cortical Networks
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Figure 7. Hub classification. (A) Distribution of participation coefficients (see Methods) for each area of macaque and cat cortex, ranked in decreasing
magnitude,withhigh-degree areas shown in yellow.(B,C) AreaV4and area 46submatrices and projectionlengthdistributions. (B, left)Area V4 submatrix,
comprised of the subset of areas and connections of the macaque cortex directly connected to area V4. Areas are arranged such that connections are
optimally contracted towards the main diagonal, resulting in two clusters containing mostly dorsal (upper left) and mostly ventral (lower right) areas. V4
afferents and efferents are shaded in dark gray. (B, middle) Graph rendering of the V4 submatrix shows that this subnetwork comprises two component
clusters with V4 in a central position. Rendering of the graph was performed in Pajek (http://vlado.fmf.uni-lj.si/pub/networks/pajek/; ) using the
Kamada-Kawai layout algorithm . V4 is marked by a blue dot, members of cluster 1 (mostly dorsal stream visual areas) are marked in white, and
members of cluster 2 (mostly ventral stream visual areas) are marked in gray. (B, right) Surface representation of V4 (shaded in blue) and its direct
neighbors (shaded in light blue). Histogram shows the distribution of the connection lengths between area V4 and its immediate neighbors. The mean
connection length is 17.09 mm (S.D.=9.60 mm). (C, left) Area 46 submatrix. (C, middle) Pajek plot for area 46 submatrix. Clusters linked by area 46appear
lesssegregatedthanthosefor area V4and contain a mixture ofvisual, sensorimotor and multimodal areas.(C, right) Surface representationofarea46and
its neighbors, and histogram of area 46 connection lengths (mean=33.41 mm, S.D.=10.58 mm).
Hubs in Cortical Networks
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To reliably identify hubs in brain networks, we used multiple
structural measures, including vertex degree, motif participation
and betweenness and closeness centrality. While hubs are most
often identified solely on the basis of their high degree, the
relationship of degree to other aspects of their structural
embedding is less well understood. While clearly interrelated,
each of the measures we apply in this study captures a distinct way
in which an area participates in the structure of the whole network.
In our combined analysis of motif contributions and centrality we
noted that, for high-degree nodes, motif M3
associated with high centrality. Many high-degree nodes with high
9contributions and centrality correspond to brain regions that
are functionally classified as ‘‘polysensory’’, or ‘‘multimodal
association areas’’, including several parietal and dorsolateral
prefrontal cortical regions, in addition to posterior cingulate cortex
and the insula. The remaining, apparently unimodal, sensory
regions are not found at lower hierarchical levels but may be
classified as ‘higher’ areas (e.g. area 19 in visual cortex and area 5
in somatosensory cortex). It is well known that these areas receive
direct projections from other sensory modalities, and functional
responses to crossmodal stimuli have been demonstrated [43–45].
Furthermore, the correspondence we find between structural
centrality and polymodality is consistent with recent human fMRI
studies  which showed that association cortices have the
highest regional efficiency (or, equivalently, the highest closeness
centrality) within brain functional networks, regardless of the age
9appears to be
Following the notion that function is an expression of structural
connectivity suggested by Passingham et al. , areas become
polysensory or multimodal because of the way in which they
participate and are embedded in the larger network. Contribution
analysis as employed in this study may provide a method for the
classification of brain regions that is complementary to the more
commonly used categories (sensory/motor, unimodal/multimodal,
primary/secondary), and which is based on an objective
quantification of inter-regional connectivity.
We find a strong link between increased contribution to motif
9, high centrality, and the impact of lesions on global network
measures that are thought to relate to information flow and
integration. This link makes predictions about the role of M3
centrality in robustness of other brain networks and suggests that
network recovery might involve the substitution of vertices with
9and centrality, to ensure high transmission while main-
taining segregation. Previous studies [46,47], investigated the
vulnerability of large-scale cortical networks by analyzing the
structural impact of deleting individual edges or vertices.
The frequency with which an edge occurred in all shortest paths
(a measure related to ‘‘edge betweenness’’; ) was found to be
highly correlated with vulnerability.
Hubs may be classified as provincial or connectors , with
provincial hubs linking vertices primarily within a single cluster,
and with connector hubs linking multiple clusters to one another.
Building on this topological classification scheme, recent functional
connectivity studies  have suggested that brain regions with
Figure 8. Impact of single area lesion on small-world index. Areas are sorted in decreasing order and high-degree areas are shown in yellow.
Horizontal lines mark the mean small-world index of the intact macaque (A) and cat (B) network (solid lines) as well as their respective standard
deviations (dashed lines). Error bars show the standard deviations of the distributions of sswafter the lesion was made. All distributions for sswwere
derived from n=1000 comparisons to degree-matched random networks. Differences at the ends of the spectrum were highly significant (p,10216);
non-significant differences are marked with a cross (6).
Hubs in Cortical Networks
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high centrality may either link to other regions within a more local
neighborhood (i.e. likely forming a single functional cluster) or
interconnect to regions over longer distances (i.e. likely members
of different functional clusters). A recent simulation study of
functional connectivity in macaque visual cortex noted that some
functional hub regions appeared to integrate information within
a single cluster, e.g. visual (V4) or sensorimotor (SII), while other
regions (46, 7a, 7b) appeared to connect visual and sensorimotor
clusters to one another . The present paper allows us to
differentiate these two types of functional hubs on the basis of their
structural embedding. Figure 7B,C shows the distribution of
connection lengths for a provincial hub (area V4) and a connector
hub (area 46), suggesting that these hub types map onto the
distinction proposed for functional connectivity . Connector
hubs constitute a large proportion of the long-range intra-
hemispheric pathways within the cortical system, underscoring
their potential importance for minimizing the number of pro-
cessing steps .
We find that the deletion of provincial hubs and the deletion of
connector hubs have distinctly different effects on the small-world
structure of the remaining network (Figure 8). Deletion of connector
hubs disconnects functional clusters, rendering them at the same
time more remote and more distinct, thus resulting in a relative
increase in the small-world index. Instead, deletion of provincial
hubs disturbs the functional integration of the cluster to which they
belong, which then renders the remaining network less segregated.
Our analysis suggests a special status for area V4 in macaque
visual cortex. We find that V4 makes the largest single
contribution to motif M3
9in its parent network, exhibits the
highest apex ratio and betweenness centrality, and acting as
a provincial hub its deletion diminishes the small-world architec-
ture of the remaining network. Do these structural features reflect
known functional characteristics of area V4? Numerous physio-
logical studies of monkey V4 have suggested that V4 is involved in
a broad range of complex visual functions, not limited to one
visual modality, including color, texture and form vision .
Lesions of V4 result in deficits in visual tasks that do not rely on
a single visual modality , including in visual recognition 
and in attentional processing . The abundance of functional
evidence suggesting a central role for V4 in the integration of
information from different components of the visual system is
consistent with its structural embedding as reported in this study.
Macaque area 46, which was identified here as a paradigmatic
connector hub, and which has previously been found to serve
a connecting functional role in large-scale cortical modeling ,
is a key region receiving polysensory inputs from posterior cortex,
integrating external information with internal goals, and keeping
this information online over time for action [51–53]. This complex
function underlies what is variously described as, for example,
working memory, spatial (dorsal) or object (ventral) cognition,
selective attention or the ‘‘central executive’’ [51,53–55] and the
prediction of future reward . Lesions in this cortical region
lead to a typical dorsolateral syndrome with the hallmark of a lack
of drive and awareness . Area 46 also has an unusually large
number of connections to spatially distant parietal regions.
Assuming that axonal conduction delays increase with projection
length, this suggests that area 46 has to process information on
a wider variety of time scales than most other brain regions. This
structural observation is in accord with the finding that neurons in
this area perform ‘active maintenance’ during delay tasks .
The frontal eye fields (FEF), which also send and receive many
long-range pathways, have also been found to maintain and
transmit delayed signals . One of the most prominent
differences in the connection profiles of prefrontal area 46 and
the FEF is that the latter sends efferents to areas V2, V3, V3A and
V4t while the former communicates only with area V4. Thus,
while areas 46 and FEF are both connector hubs, the function of
FEF is more tightly related to the visual modality, as was noted by
previous structural analyses .
The use of data sets from two different mammalian species
(macaque monkey and cat) invites comparisons between these
structures in terms of a broad range of graph theoretical measures,
including small-world attributes, motif composition and centrality.
Cross-species comparisons of brain connectivity patterns are made
difficult by the fact that only very few comprehensive data sets
collated from anatomical tract tracing studies are currently
available. Other potential problems include differences in size
and density of connection matrices, the use of different parcella-
tion schemes, data sources, anatomical tracing methods, spatial
resolution, inclusion or lack of thalamic regions, and uncertain
regional homologies. Despite these problems we suggest that
graph-theoretical descriptors have the potential to provide
significant new insights into patterns of brain evolution  going
beyond the consideration of brain size, average connectedness, or
wiring length. Future anatomical data bases enlarging the range of
species may be constructed from genetic markers , selectively
activated viral tracers , novel optical imaging techniques 
or from diffusion imaging of brain tissue [63,64]. These data sets
would provide ‘‘connectomes’’  or ‘‘projectomes’’  at high
spatial resolution and allow much more fine-grained analyses of
complex brain networks, and would thus provide new insights into
functionally relevant patterns that are conserved or elaborated
during brain evolution.
Our aim was to link aspects of functional specificity and
performance of brain regions, in particular of network hubs, to
their structural embedding within cortical networks. Many
extensions and refinements of this work are possible. These
include the analysis of data on strengths or density of connections,
the investigation of refined partitioning schemes in different
cortical functional systems, the spatial embedding of brain regions
and pathways (e.g. ), the consideration of hierarchical network
measures (e.g. ) and application of the graph theory
framework to functional connectivity data (e.g. [21,22,24]). With
the arrival of new structural imaging methods, it is now feasible to
apply network analysis to human anatomical data [64,68], and
thereby to further our understanding of how human brain
anatomy relates to cognition.
Found at: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001049.s001 (0.49 MB
Conceived and designed the experiments: OS RK CH. Analyzed the data:
OS RK CH. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: OS RK CH.
Wrote the paper: OS RK CH.
Hubs in Cortical Networks
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org13 October 2007 | Issue 10 | e1049
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Hubs in Cortical Networks
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