The head bone connected to the… net bone?


After a while using social network analysis, everything starts to look like networks. Whether its the European road system or all the land borders in the world, the network perspective can offer new views to old things. Now it’s time approach the human body from a network angle.

The human body is supported by bones and the joints and ligaments connecting them. Using Ucinet to feed the data and Gephi to visualize it, I made the following picture of how bones connect to each other. Some simplifications had to be made: all of the vertebrae of the vertebral column are not shown. Also our study subject is one-armed and one-legged person whose hands and feet are basically flippers. I’m also not a m.d., so some anatomical errors are possible.

The size of the node represents betweenness centrality: how the bone is situated between other bones.We see that the lumbar vertebrae bears often the burden of the forces traversing in the human body. The common term for this network effect is back pain.

The picture with the joints and ligaments is below. 


The most interesting part for me is that though anterior longitudinal ligament is not the most central part, it is still closest to all the other parts of the human support structure. Damage to this ligament is quickly manifests in other parts of the body.

Using social network analysis we can get new explanations for old problems. Combining network analysis with statistical medical data we could possibly gain better understanding of the human body.



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