White Matter Connectivity of the Thalamus Delineates the Functional Architecture of Competing Thalamocortical Systems

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Nov;25(11):4477-89. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv063. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


There is an increasing awareness of the involvement of thalamic connectivity on higher level cortical functioning in the human brain. This is reflected by the influence of thalamic stimulation on cortical activity and behavior as well as apparently cortical lesion syndromes occurring as a function of small thalamic insults. Here, we attempt to noninvasively test the correspondence of structural and functional connectivity of the human thalamus using diffusion-weighted and resting-state functional MRI. Using a large sample of 102 adults, we apply tensor independent component analysis to diffusion MRI tractography data to blindly parcellate bilateral thalamus according to diffusion tractography-defined structural connectivity. Using resting-state functional MRI collected in the same subjects, we show that the resulting structurally defined thalamic regions map to spatially distinct, and anatomically predictable, whole-brain functional networks in the same subjects. Although there was significant variability in the functional connectivity patterns, the resulting 51 structural and functional patterns could broadly be reduced to a subset of 7 similar core network types. These networks were distinct from typical cortical resting-state networks. Importantly, these networks were distributed across the brain and, in a subset, map extremely well to known thalamocortico-basal-ganglial loops.

Keywords: functional connectivity; functional networks; resting-state fMRI; thalamus; tractography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Thalamus / blood supply
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • White Matter / blood supply
  • White Matter / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen