Anatomical Network Comparison of Human Upper and Lower, Newborn and Adult, and Normal and Abnormal Limbs, with Notes on Development, Pathology and Limb Serial Homology vs. Homoplasy

Oct 1, 2015

How do the various anatomical parts (modules) of the animal body evolve into very different integrated forms (integration) yet still function properly without decreasing the individual's survival? This long-standing question remains unanswered for multiple reasons, including lack of consensus about conceptual definitions and approaches, as well as a reasonable bias toward the study of hard tissues over soft tissues. A major difficulty concerns the non-trivial technical hurdles of addressing this problem, specifically the lack of quantitative tools to quantify and compare variation across multiple disparate anatomical parts and tissue types. In this paper we apply for the first time a powerful new quantitative tool, Anatomical Network Analysis (AnNA), to examine and compare in detail the musculoskeletal modularity and integration of normal and abnormal human upper and lower limbs. In contrast to other morphological methods, the strength of AnNA is that it allows efficient and direct empirical comparisons among body parts with even vastly different architectures (e.g. upper and lower limbs) and diverse or complex tissue composition (e.g. bones, cartilages and muscles), by quantifying the spatial organization of these parts—their topological patterns relative to each other—using tools borrowed from network theory. Our results reveal similarities between the skeletal networks of the normal newborn/adult upper limb vs. lower limb, with exception to the shoulder vs. pelvis. However, when muscles are included, the overall mus-culoskeletal network organization of the upper limb is strikingly different from that of the lower limb, particularly that of the more proximal structures of each limb. Importantly, the obtain