Gradients of connectivity distance are anchored in primary cortex.
Oligschläger S., Huntenburg JM., Golchert J., Lauckner ME., Bonnen T., Margulies DS.
Connectivity between distant cortical areas is a valuable, yet costly feature of cortical organization and is predominantly found between regions of heteromodal association cortex. The recently proposed 'tethering hypothesis' describes the emergence of long-distance connections in association cortex as a function of their spatial separation from primary cortical regions. Here, we investigate this possibility by characterizing the distance between functionally connected areas along the cortical surface. We found a systematic relationship between an area's characteristic connectivity distance and its distance from primary cortical areas. Specifically, the further a region is located from primary sensorimotor regions, the more distant are its functional connections with other areas of the cortex. The measure of connectivity distance also captured major functional subdivisions of the cerebral cortex: unimodal, attention, and higher-order association regions. Our findings provide evidence for the anchoring role of primary cortical regions in establishing the spatial distribution of cortical properties that are related to functional specialization and differentiation.