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Neuroimage. 2006 Oct 1;32(4):1524-37. Epub 2006 Jun 27.

Mapping an intrinsic MR property of gray matter in auditory cortex of living humans: a possible marker for primary cortex and hemispheric differences.

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Eaton-Peabody Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA 02114, and Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Recently, magnetic resonance properties of cerebral gray matter have been spatially mapped--in vivo--over the cortical surface. In one of the first neuroscientific applications of this approach, this study explores what can be learned about auditory cortex in living humans by mapping longitudinal relaxation rate (R1), a property related to myelin content. Gray matter R1 (and thickness) showed repeatable trends, including the following: (1) Regions of high R1 were always found overlapping posteromedial Heschl's gyrus. They also sometimes occurred in planum temporale and never in other parts of the superior temporal lobe. We hypothesize that the high R1 overlapping Heschl's gyrus (which likely indicates dense gray matter myelination) reflects auditory koniocortex (i.e., primary cortex), a heavily myelinated area that shows comparable overlap with the gyrus. High R1 overlapping Heschl's gyrus was identified in every instance suggesting that R1 may ultimately provide a marker for koniocortex in individuals. Such a marker would be significant for auditory neuroimaging, which has no standard means (anatomic or physiologic) for localizing cortical areas in individual subjects. (2) Inter-hemispheric comparisons revealed greater R1 on the left on Heschl's gyrus, planum temporale, superior temporal gyrus and superior temporal sulcus. This asymmetry suggests greater gray matter myelination in left auditory cortex, which may be a substrate for the left hemisphere's specialized processing of speech, language, and rapid acoustic changes. These results indicate that in vivo R1 mapping can provide new insights into the structure of human cortical gray matter and its relation to function.

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