A diffusion spectrum imaging-based tractographic study into the anatomical subdivision and cortical connectivity of the ventral external capsule: uncinate and inferior fronto-occipital fascicles
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The inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF) and uncinate fasciculus (UF) are major fronto-capsular white matter pathways. IFOF connects frontal areas of the brain to parieto-occipital areas. UF connects ventral frontal areas to anterior temporal areas. Both fascicles are thought to subserve higher language and emotion roles. Controversy pertaining to their connectivity and subdivision persists in the literature, however.
High-definition fiber tractography (HDFT) is a non-tensor tractographic method using diffusion spectrum imaging data. Its major advantage over tensor-based tractography is its ability to trace crossing fiber pathways. We used HDFT to investigate subdivisions and cortical connectivity of IFOF and UF in 30 single subjects and in an atlas comprising averaged data from 842 individuals. A per-subject aligned, atlas-based approach was employed to seed fiber tracts and to study cortical terminations.
For IFOF, we observed a tripartite arrangement corresponding to ventrolateral, ventromedial, and dorsomedial frontal origins. IFOF volume was not significantly lateralized to either hemisphere. UF fibers arose from ventromedial and ventrolateral frontal areas on the left and from ventromedial frontal areas on the right. UF volume was significantly lateralized to the left hemisphere. The data from the averaged atlas was largely in concordance with subject-specific findings. IFOF connected to parietal, occipital, but not temporal, areas. UF connected predominantly to temporal poles.
Both IFOF and UF possess subdivided arrangements according to their frontal origin. Our connectivity results indicate the multifunctional involvement of IFOF and UF in language tasks. We discuss our findings in context of the tractographic literature.
KeywordsTractography Inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus Uncinate fasciculus Diffusion spectrum imaging Neuroanatomy
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was funded by the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and animal rights
All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board at the University of Pittsburgh and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The subject data used in this study was obtained from the Human Connectome Project’s public database.
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