How the Brain’s Control Over Itself Emerges

How the Brain’s Control Over Itself Emerges

By Lida Tunesi

Danielle Bassett

Danielle Bassett, Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor in the departments of Bioengineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering recently worked with colleagues in the departments of psychiatry and physics, bioengineering postdoctoral student Evelyn Tang, bioengineering graduate student Ari Kahn, and Bassett lab alumni Chad Giusti and Shi Gu on a study that looks at the brain’s control systems, and how they develop as the brain matures.

Bassett’s research group looks at problems in science and medicine through the lens of systems theory and network science. She has previously studied how controllability, the brain’s capacity to switch from one state to another, manifests in the brain, and how this ability facilitates executive function.

The paper, published in Nature Communications, examines how this controllability increases and changes throughout development.

As part of this study, the authors applied network control theory — an emerging area of systems engineering — to explain how the pattern of connections (or network) between brain areas directly informs the brain’s control functions. For example, hubs of the brain’s information trafficking system (like Grand Central Station in New York City) show quite different capacities for and sensitivities to control than non-hubs (like Newton Station, Kansas). Applying these ideas to a large set of brain imaging data from 882 youths in the Philadelphia area between the ages of 8 and 22 years old, the authors found that the brain’s predicted capacity for control increases over development. Older youths have a greater predicted capacity to push their brains into nearby mental states, as well as into distant mental states, indicating a greater potential for diversity of mental operations than in younger youths.

Continue reading at Penn Bioengineering Blog.