The human hypothalamus is at the center of the human limbic system anatomically and physiologically. The hypothalamus plays pivotal roles in controlling autonomic responses and instinctive behaviors such as regulating fear, aggression, learning, feeding behavior, circadian rhythm, and reproductive activities. The detailed anatomy of the pathways responsible for mediating these responses, however, is yet to be determined. The inhibitory effect of the cerebral cortex on the hypothalamus in many autonomic responses, suggests the presence of direct connection between the cortex and hypothalamic nuclei. While, there is ample information to support the cortico-hypothalamic association between the prefrontal cortex and hypothalamic nuclei, the information regarding a direct posterior cortico-hypothalamic alliance is scant. The visuosensory information may be crucial for the limbic system to regulate some of the important limbic functions. Multiple dissection animal studies revealed direct posterior cortical connectivity with the hypothalamic nuclei. However, a direct cortico-hypothalamic connectivity from the parieto-occipital cortices has not been revealed in the human brain yet. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) may be helpful in better visualizing the anatomy of this direct posterior cortico-limbic connectivity noninvasively in the human brain. We studied 30 healthy human subjects. Using a high-spatial and high angular resolution diffusion weighted tractography technique, for the first time, we were able to delineate and reconstruct the trajectory of the parieto-occipito-hypothalamic tract.
- diffusion weighted imaging
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