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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jun;107(11):2984-95. doi: 10.1152/jn.00995.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

Microstructural organizational patterns in the human corticostriatal system.

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Learning Research and Development Center, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


The axons that project into the striatum are known to segregate according to macroscopic cortical systems; however, the within-region organization of these fibers has yet to be described in humans. We used in vivo fiber tractography, in neurologically healthy adults, to map white matter bundles that originate in different neocortical areas, navigate complex fiber crossings, and project into the striatum. As expected, these fibers were generally segregated according to cortical origin. Within a subset of pathways, a patched pattern of inputs was observed, consistent with previous ex vivo histological studies. In projections from the prefrontal cortex, we detected a topography in which fibers from rostral prefrontal areas projected mostly to rostral parts of the striatum and vice versa for inputs originating in caudal cortical areas. Importantly, within this prefrontal system there was also an asymmetry in the subset of divergent projections, with more fibers projecting in a posterior direction than anterior. This asymmetry of information projecting into the basal ganglia was predicted by previous network-level computational models. A rostral-caudal topography was also present at the local level in otherwise somatotopically organized fibers projecting from the motor cortex. This provides clear evidence that the longitudinal organization of input fields, observed at the macroscopic level across cortical systems, is also found at the microstructural scale at which information is segregated as it enters the human basal ganglia.

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