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Myelination has been increasingly implicated in the function and dysfunction of the adult human brain. Although it is known that axon myelination shapes axon physiology in animal models, it is unclear whether a similar principle applies in the living human brain, and at the level of whole axon bundles in white matter tracts. Here, we hypothesised that in humans, cortico-cortical interactions between two brain areas may be shaped by the amount of myelin in the white matter tract connecting them. As a test bed for this hypothesis, we use a well-defined interhemispheric premotor-to-motor circuit. We combined TMS-derived physiological measures of cortico-cortical interactions during action reprogramming with multimodal myelin markers (MT, R1, R2* and FA), in a large cohort of healthy subjects. We found that physiological metrics of premotor-to-motor interaction are broadly associated with multiple myelin markers, suggesting interindividual differences in tract myelination may play a role in motor network physiology. Moreover, we also demonstrate that myelination metrics link indirectly to action switching by influencing local primary motor cortex dynamics. These findings suggest that myelination levels in white matter tracts may influence millisecond-level cortico-cortical interactions during tasks. They also unveil a link between the physiology of the motor network and the myelination of tracts connecting its components, and provide a putative mechanism mediating the relationship between brain myelination and human behaviour.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Adult, Animals, Axons, Brain, Brain Mapping, Humans, Myelin Sheath, White Matter