Functional organization of human occipital-callosal fiber tracts


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and fiber tracking (FT) were used to measure the occipital lobe fiber tracts connecting the two hemispheres in individual human subjects. These tracts are important for normal vision. Also, damage to portions of these tracts is associated with alexia. To assess the reliability of the DTI-FT measurements, occipital-callosal projections were estimated from each subject’s left and right hemispheres independently. The left and right estimates converged onto the same positions within the splenium. We further characterized the properties of the estimated occipital-callosal fiber tracts by combining them with functional MRI. We used functional MRI to identify visual field maps in cortex and labeled fibers by the cortical functional response at the fiber endpoint. This labeling reveals a regular organization of the fibers within the splenium. The dorsal visual maps (dorsal V3, V3A, V3B, V7) send projections through a large band in the middle of the splenium, whereas ventral visual maps (ventral V3, V4) send projections through the inferior-anterior corner of the splenium. The agreement between the independent left/right estimates, further supported by previous descriptions of homologous tracts in macaque, validates the DTI-FT methods. However, a principal limitation of these methods is low sensitivity: a large number of fiber tracts that connect homotopic regions of ventral and lateral visual cortex were undetected. We conclude that most of the estimated tracts are real and can be localized with a precision of 1-2 mm, but many tracts are missed because of data and algorithm limitations.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences