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High activity and high functional connectivity are mutually exclusive in resting state zebrafish and human brains.



The structural connectivity of neurons in the brain allows active neurons to impact the physiology of target neuron types with which they are functionally connected. While the structural connectome is at the basis of functional connectome, it is the functional connectivity measured through correlations between time series of individual neurophysiological events that underlies behavioral and mental states. However, in light of the diverse neuronal cell types populating the brain and their unique connectivity properties, both neuronal activity and functional connectivity are heterogeneous across the brain, and the nature of their relationship is not clear. Here, we employ brain-wide calcium imaging at cellular resolution in larval zebrafish to understand the principles of resting state functional connectivity.


We recorded the spontaneous activity of >12,000 neurons in the awake resting state forebrain. By classifying their activity (i.e., variances of ΔF/F across time) and functional connectivity into three levels (high, medium, low), we find that highly active neurons have low functional connections and highly connected neurons are of low activity. This finding holds true when neuronal activity and functional connectivity data are classified into five instead of three levels, and in whole brain spontaneous activity datasets. Moreover, such activity-connectivity relationship is not observed in randomly shuffled, noise-added, or simulated datasets, suggesting that it reflects an intrinsic brain network property. Intriguingly, deploying the same analytical tools on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from the resting state human brain, we uncover a similar relationship between activity (signal variance over time) and functional connectivity, that is, regions of high activity are non-overlapping with those of high connectivity.


We found a mutually exclusive relationship between high activity (signal variance over time) and high functional connectivity of neurons in zebrafish and human brains. These findings reveal a previously unknown and evolutionarily conserved brain organizational principle, which has implications for understanding disease states and designing artificial neuronal networks.

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