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Asymmetry, connectivity, and segmentation of the arcuate fascicle in the human brain.
The structure and function of the arcuate fascicle is still controversial. The goal of this study was to investigate the asymmetry, connectivity, and segmentation patterns of the arcuate fascicle. We employed diffusion spectrum imaging reconstructed by generalized q-sampling and we applied both a subject-specific approach (10 subjects) and a template approach (q-space diffeomorphic reconstruction of 30 subjects). We complemented our imaging investigation with fiber microdissection of five post-mortem human brains. Our results confirmed the highly leftward asymmetry of the arcuate fascicle. In the template, the left arcuate had a volume twice as large as the right one, and the left superior temporal gyrus provided five times more volume of fibers than its counterpart. We identified four cortical frontal areas of termination: pars opercularis, pars triangularis, ventral precentral gyrus, and caudal middle frontal gyrus. We found clear asymmetry of the frontal terminations at pars opercularis and ventral precentral gyrus. The analysis of patterns of connectivity revealed the existence of a strong structural segmentation in the left arcuate, but not in the right one. The left arcuate fascicle is formed by an inner or ventral pathway, which interconnects pars opercularis with superior and rostral middle temporal gyri; and an outer or dorsal pathway, which interconnects ventral precentral and caudal middle frontal gyri with caudal middle and inferior temporal gyri. The fiber microdissection results provided further support to our tractography studies. We propose the existence of primary and supplementary language pathways within the dominant arcuate fascicle with potentially distinct functional and lesional features.