Understanding the function and connectivity of thalamic nuclei is critical for understanding normal and pathological brain function. The medial geniculate nucleus (MGN) has been studied mostly in the context of auditory processing and its connection to the auditory cortex. However, there is a growing body of evidence that the MGN and surrounding associated areas ('MGN/S') have a diversity of projections including those to the globus pallidus, caudate/putamen, amygdala, hypothalamus, and thalamus. Concomitantly, pathways projecting to the medial geniculate include not only the inferior colliculus but also the auditory cortex, insula, cerebellum, and globus pallidus. Here we expand our understanding of the connectivity of the MGN/S by using comparative diffusion weighted imaging with probabilistic tractography in both human and mouse brains (most previous work was in rats). In doing so, we provide the first report that attempts to match probabilistic tractography results between human and mice. Additionally, we provide anterograde tracing results for the mouse brain, which corroborate the probabilistic tractography findings. Overall, the study provides evidence for the homology of MGN/S patterns of connectivity across species for understanding translational approaches to thalamic connectivity and function. Further, it points to the utility of DTI in both human studies and small animal modeling, and it suggests potential roles of these connections in human cognition, behavior, and disease.
Keywords: Connectome; Diffusion tensor imaging; Diffusion weighted imaging; Magnetic resonance imaging; Medial geniculate nucleus; Tractography.
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