BNST-insula structural connectivity in humans

Neuroimage. 2020 Apr 15:210:116555. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116555. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is emerging as a critical region in multiple psychiatric disorders including anxiety, PTSD, and alcohol and substance use disorders. In conjunction with growing knowledge of the BNST, an increasing number of studies examine connections of the BNST and how those connections impact BNST function. The importance of this BNST network is highlighted by rodent studies demonstrating that projections from other brain regions regulate BNST activity and influence BNST-related behavior. While many animal and human studies replicate the components of the BNST network, to date, structural connections between the BNST and insula have only been described in rodents and have yet to be shown in humans. In this study, we used probabilistic tractography to examine BNST-insula structural connectivity in humans. We used two methods of dividing the insula: 1) anterior and posterior insula, to be consistent with much of the existing insula literature; and 2) eight subregions that represent informative cytoarchitectural divisions. We found evidence of a BNST-insula structural connection in humans, with the strongest BNST connectivity localized to the anteroventral insula, a region of agranular cortex. BNST-insula connectivity differed by hemisphere and was moderated by sex. These results translate rodent findings to humans and lay an important foundation for future studies examining the role of BNST-insula pathways in psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Agranular insula; Anterior Insula; BNST; DTI; Structural connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Echo-Planar Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Septal Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Septal Nuclei / diagnostic imaging
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult