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Brain Connect. 2017 Nov;7(9):602-616. doi: 10.1089/brain.2017.0500.

Functional Connectivity Parcellation of the Human Thalamus by Independent Component Analysis.

Zhang S1, Li CR1,2,3,4.

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1 Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven, Connecticut.
2 Department of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven, Connecticut.
3 Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University , New Haven, Connecticut.
4 Beijing Huilongguan Hospital , Beijing, China .


As a key structure to relay and integrate information, the thalamus supports multiple cognitive and affective functions through the connectivity between its subnuclei and cortical and subcortical regions. Although extant studies have largely described thalamic regional functions in anatomical terms, evidence accumulates to suggest a more complex picture of subareal activities and connectivities of the thalamus. In this study, we aimed to parcellate the thalamus and examine whole-brain connectivity of its functional clusters. With resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 96 adults, we used independent component analysis (ICA) to parcellate the thalamus into 10 components. On the basis of the independence assumption, ICA helps to identify how subclusters overlap spatially. Whole brain functional connectivity of each subdivision was computed for independent component's time course (ICtc), which is a unique time series to represent an IC. For comparison, we computed seed-region-based functional connectivity using the averaged time course across all voxels within a thalamic subdivision. The results showed that, at p < 10-6, corrected, 49% of voxels on average overlapped among subdivisions. Compared with seed-region analysis, ICtc analysis revealed patterns of connectivity that were more distinguished between thalamic clusters. ICtc analysis demonstrated thalamic connectivity to the primary motor cortex, which has eluded the analysis as well as previous studies based on averaged time series, and clarified thalamic connectivity to the hippocampus, caudate nucleus, and precuneus. The new findings elucidate functional organization of the thalamus and suggest that ICA clustering in combination with ICtc rather than seed-region analysis better distinguishes whole-brain connectivities among functional clusters of a brain region.


independent component analysis; parcellation; resting state functional connectivity; thalamus

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