Efficiency of weak brain connections support general cognitive functioning



Brain network topology provides valuable information on healthy and pathological brain functioning. Novel approaches for brain network analysis have shown an association between topological properties and cognitive functioning. Under the assumption that “stronger is better”, the exploration of brain properties has generally focused on the connectivity patterns of the most strongly correlated regions, whereas the role of weaker brain connections has remained obscure for years. Here, we assessed whether the different strength of connections between brain regions may explain individual differences in intelligence. We analyzed-functional connectivity at rest in ninety-eight healthy individuals of different age, and correlated several connectivity measures with full scale, verbal, and performance Intelligent Quotients (IQs). Our results showed that the variance in IQ levels was mostly explained by the distributed communication efficiency of brain networks built using moderately weak, long-distance connections, with only a smaller contribution of stronger connections. The variability in individual IQs was associated with the global efficiency of a pool of regions in the prefrontal lobes, hippocampus, temporal pole, and postcentral gyrus. These findings challenge the traditional view of a prominent role of strong functional brain connections in brain topology, and highlight the importance of both strong and weak connections in determining the functional architecture responsible for human intelligence variability. Hum Brain Mapp 35:4566–4582, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.