Structural and functional connectivity of the subthalamic nucleus during vocal emotion decoding

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Abstract

Our understanding of the role played by the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in human emotion has recently advanced with STN deep brain stimulation, a neurosurgical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the potential presence of several confounds related to pathological models raises the question of how much they affect the relevance of observations regarding the physiological function of the STN itself. This underscores the crucial importance of obtaining evidence from healthy participants. In this study, we tested the structural and functional connectivity between the STN and other brain regions related to vocal emotion in a healthy population by combining diffusion tensor imaging and psychophysiological interaction analysis from a high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging study. As expected, we showed that the STN is functionally connected to the structures involved in emotional prosody decoding, notably the orbitofrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, auditory cortex, pallidum and amygdala. These functional results were corroborated by probabilistic fiber tracking, which revealed that the left STN is structurally connected to the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex. These results confirm, in healthy participants, the role played by the STN in human emotion and its structural and functional connectivity with the brain network involved in vocal emotions.

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