Hodology of the superior longitudinal system of the human brain: a historical perspective, the current controversies, and a proposal

Brain Struct Funct. 2021 Jun;226(5):1363-1384. doi: 10.1007/s00429-021-02265-0. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


The description of human white matter pathways experienced a tremendous improvement, thanks to the advancement of neuroimaging and dissection techniques. The downside of this progress is the production of redundant and conflicting literature, bound by specific studies' methods and aims. The Superior Longitudinal System (SLS), encompassing the arcuate (AF) and the superior longitudinal fasciculi (SLF), becomes an illustrative example of this fundamental issue, being one of the most studied white matter association pathways of the brain. Herein, we provide a complete illustration of this white matter fiber system's current definition, from its early descriptions in the nineteenth century to its most recent characterizations. We propose a review of both in vivo diffusion magnetic resonance imaging-based tractography and anatomical dissection studies, enclosing all the information available up to date. Based on these findings, we reconstruct the wiring diagram of the SLS, highlighting a substantial variability in the description of its cortical sites of termination and the taxonomy and partonomy that characterize the system. We aim to level up discrepancies in the literature by proposing a parallel across the various nomenclature. Consistent with the topographical arrangement already documented for commissural and projection pathways, we suggest approaching the SLS organization as an orderly and continuous wiring diagram, respecting a medio-lateral palisading topography between the different frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal gyri rather than in terms of individualized fascicles. A better and complete description of the fine organization of white matter association pathways' connectivity is fundamental for a better understanding of brain function and their clinical and neurosurgical applications.

Keywords: Arcuate fascicle; Association pathways; Dissection; Human white matter anatomy; Superior longitudinal fascicle; Tractography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging