The Corticocortical Structural Connectivity of the Human Insula

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The insula is a complex structure involved in a wide range of functions. Tracing studies on nonhuman primates reveal a wide array of cortical connections in the frontal (orbitofrontal and prefrontal cortices, cingulate areas and supplementary motor area), parietal (primary and secondary somatosensory cortices) and temporal (temporal pole, auditory, prorhinal and entorhinal cortices) lobes. However, recent human tractography studies have not observed connections between the insula and the cingulate cortices, although these structures are thought to be functionally intimately connected. In this work, we try to unravel the structural connectivity between these regions and other known functionally connected structures, benefiting from a higher number of subjects and the latest state-of-the-art high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) tractography algorithms with anatomical priors. By performing an HARDI tractography analysis on 46 young normal adults, our study reveals a wide array of connections between the insula and the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes as well as limbic regions, with a rostro-caudal organization in line with tracing studies in macaques. Notably, we reveal for the first time in humans a clear structural connectivity between the insula and the cingulate, parahippocampal, supramarginal and angular gyri as well as the precuneus and occipital regions.

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