The evolving landscape of human cortical connectivity: Facts and inferences

Marsel Mesulam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Human cognitive brain mapping is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it can access a rich data set of synaptic connectivity in the cerebral cortex of the monkey, an animal that lacks many of the complicated behaviors of interest. On the other hand, it is rapidly amassing an even richer data set on the functional map of the human cerebral cortex, but with relatively little hard data on underlying structural connectivity. This second point tends to be blurred in the current literature because of the multiple ways in which the term 'connection' is used in the context of the human brain. In some instances the term is used at a conceptual level, to designate a pathway that should be there if the behavior is to be performed. In other instances, it refers to the computational demonstration of a functional relationship, the structural basis of which is not necessarily known. A third usage is based on connections that are known to exist in the monkey and that are inferred to also exist in the human. The fourth and most direct usage involves connections structurally proven to exist in the human. These four usages have been invoked interchangeably to propose connectivistic mechanisms of human cognitive function. To enlarge the currently limited data set on structural connectivity is of considerable importance for conducting biologically more valid explorations of large-scale neurocognitive networks. This challenging goal will require histological laboratory investigations of the human brain to resume their former prominence and to play an increasingly more substantial role in brain mapping research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2182-2189
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


  • Connectivity
  • Heteromodal
  • Human brain
  • Network
  • Paralimbic
  • Transmodal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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