Systems neuroscience and connectomics

The human brain is an extraordinarily complex network comprising billions of nerve cells connected by trillions of fibers. Interactions unfolding on this intricate web of connectivity underlie all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. The derailment of these interactions can lead to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Accordingly, generating an accurate and comprehensive wiring diagram for the brain – the so-called human connectome – has become a major goal in neuroscience, comparable in scale to the Human Genome Project.

Our inter-disciplinary team uses network science, complex systems theory and systems neuroscience to understand the connectome in health and disease, with a particular focus on addressing questions such as:

  • What are the key principles governing brain organization and dynamics?
  • How do genes influence brain network wiring?
  • How does brain network structure constrain function?
  • How do brain networks dynamically adapt to changing task contexts in order to support optimal performance?
  • How is brain connectivity disturbed in mental illness?

We use diverse techniques for brain imaging and neurostimulation, including structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, diffusion MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We combine these data with computational models and genetic analyses to develop an integrated understanding of the relationship between brain and behaviour.

Our work has contributed new tools for analysing brain networks, shed light on how genes influence brain network development, and mapped connectivity disruptions across a wide-range of disorders, including schizophrenia, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

We work closely with the Yücel lab as part of the Brain and Mental Health Laboratory. Our research is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council.