I didn’t think when I started my research on brain disorders I’d be learning about Haussman’s reorganisation of the roads in Paris! However, today’s Cambridge Networks Network meeting was a fascinating glimpse in to a range of different ways people view networks, including the dynamics of roads in urban Paris. A large part of my research focuses on how brain networks change in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Corticobasal Degeneration, and what that can tell us about clinical aspects of disease and the pathology that underlies them.

There were, of course, some talks much closer to home from Ed Bullmore who talked about the role of cost in brain networks, and Albert Barabasi who touched on the scale-free organisation of brain and other networks. I have read a number of Barabasi’s papers, and his talk was as clearly thought through as his writing. He talked about a relatively new concept of controlling networks via a small number of nodes (see here for more detail). I’m not sure yet how relevant this will be in the brain, but it’s a fascinating approach.

Connections in the nervous system of the worm C elegans

Connections in the nervous system of the worm C elegans

The range of people who came to the meeting was impressive. I talked to people who study networks as diverse as telecommunications, worm nervous systems, yeast proteins and gene interactions. The striking similarities between the mathematics in all these systems is quite remarkable. I’ve picked up a couple of ideas that I’ll try and put in to practice in the next week or so. Hopefully this will be arriving in a published paper in the near future!

The last few weeks have been particularly frustrating with technical issues, computer crashes, last minute presentations to prepare and the general vagaries of clinical and research issues. So it was refreshing to be part of a group of enthusiastic researchers sharing ideas. It’s helped me see the bigger picture in my own work and gave me a renewed sense of optimism. Onwards and upwards!