A DTI investigation of neural substrates supporting tool use

Cereb Cortex. 2010 Mar;20(3):507-16. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp141. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Recent functional neuroimaging and brain lesion studies have implicated a network of left hemisphere regions in human tool use: 1) posterior middle temporal cortex involved in conceptual knowledge of tools, 2) posterior inferior parietal cortex for representations of learned tool use gestures, and 3) anterior inferior parietal cortex, along with posterior inferior frontal and ventral premotor cortices, involved in grasping and manipulating objects. Here, we use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to investigate the anatomical connections that support this putative network. DTI scans were acquired from nineteen right-handed males and a deterministic tractography algorithm was used to identify connections between these regions implicated in tool use. Three of the resulting pathways were larger in the left than the right hemisphere. One connected posterior middle temporal cortex and the anterior inferior parietal cortex, a second connected posterior middle temporal cortex and the posterior inferior parietal cortex, and a third connected anterior inferior parietal cortex and the frontal lobe. In contrast, the connection between the posterior inferior parietal cortex and the frontal lobe was highly rightwardly asymmetric. Although further study is necessary to establish the functions of these pathways, we integrate our findings with previous evidence from functional neuroimaging and apraxia studies to suggest some possible functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult