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Elife. 2019 Aug 1;8. pii: e48932. doi: 10.7554/eLife.48932. [Epub ahead of print]

Mapping the human subcortical auditory system using histology, post mortem MRI and in vivo MRI at 7T.

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McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States.
Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.
Center for In Vivo Microscopy, Duke University, Durham, United States.


Studying the human subcortical auditory system non-invasively is challenging due to its small, densely packed structures deep within the brain. Additionally, the elaborate three-dimensional (3-D) structure of the system can be difficult to understand based on currently available 2-D schematics and animal models. We addressed these issues using a combination of histological data, post mortem magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and in vivo MRI at 7 Tesla. We created anatomical atlases based on state-of-the-art human histology (BigBrain) and post mortem MRI (50 μm). We measured functional MRI (fMRI) responses to natural sounds and demonstrate that the functional localization of subcortical structures is reliable within individual participants who were scanned in two different experiments. Further, a group functional atlas derived from the functional data locates these structures with a median distance below 2mm. Using diffusion MRI tractography, we revealed structural connectivity maps of the human subcortical auditory pathway both in vivo (1050 μm isotropic resolution) and post mortem (200 μm isotropic resolution). This work captures current MRI capabilities for investigating the human subcortical auditory system, describes challenges that remain, and contributes novel, openly available data, atlases, and tools for researching the human auditory system.


human; neuroscience

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