The sagittal stratum is a prominent and macroscopically clearly visible white-matter structure within occipital and parietal lobes with a highly organized structure of parallel fibers running in rostro-caudal direction. Apart from the major tract running through, i.e., the optic radiation, the source and arrangement of other fibers within the sagittal stratum is only partially understood. Recent diffusion imaging studies in-vivo suggest additional minor fiber directions, perpendicular to the major rostro-caudal ones, but the spatial resolution does not allow to resolve them, and to unambiguously distinguish it from noise. Taking this previous evidence as motivation, the present study used 3D polarized light imaging (3D-PLI) for micrometer resolution analysis of nerve fibers in postmortem specimens of a vervet monkey brain. The analysis of coronal occipital and parietal sections revealed that the sagittal stratum consisted of an external and an internal layer, which are joined and crossed by fibers from the surrounding white matter and the tapetum. Fibers from different parietal and occipital regions entered the sagittal stratum in the dorsal, ventral or middle sector, as solid large bundles or as several small fiber aggregations. These patterns were remarkably similar to published results of tracer experiments in macaques. Taking this correspondence as external validation of 3D-PLI enabled translation to the human brain, where a similarly complex fiber architecture within the sagittal stratum could be exemplified in a human hemisphere in our study. We thus argue in favor of a dedicated fiber microstructure within the sagittal stratum as a correlate of the additional fiber directions typically seen in in-vivo diffusion imaging studies.
Keywords: 3D-PLI; Callosal fibers; Diffusion imaging; Optic radiation; Spherical deconvolution; Visual system.
© 2022. The Author(s).