Brain Connect 2018 02 22;8(1):22-32. Epub 2018 Jan 22.
1 A.A. Martinos Imaging Center, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is a small structure situated deep in the midbrain that exhibits wide-ranging functionality. In addition to its role in motor control, the STN is considered a hub for synchronizing aspects of emotion and cognition including attention, inhibitory control, motivation, and working memory. Evidence from neuroanatomical tracer studies suggests that the medial, ventromedial, and dorsolateral parts of the STN correspond to limbic, associative, and motor subdivisions, respectively. Although the extent of STN functional anatomical overlap remains unclear, blood oxygenation level dependent imaging of the STN may provide complementary information about the diverse functions of this structure. Methodological limitations in spatial and temporal resolutions, however, have prevented a comprehensive exploration of temporal correlations from the STN to the whole brain. In this study, we optimize spatial (2 mm isotropic) and temporal (TR = 1 s) resolutions to take full advantage of the time series signal-to-noise ratio capabilities of multichannel array coils and simultaneous multislice imaging. We interrogated STN seed-to-voxel resting-state functional MRI connectivity in a group of 30 healthy participants that included the whole brain at high-temporal and spatial resolutions. This analysis revealed STN functional connectivity to limbic, associative, and motor networks. Our findings contribute to the understanding of STN functional neuroanatomy in humans and are clinically relevant for ongoing research in deep brain stimulation.