A novel approach based on diffusion tractography was used here to characterise the cortico-thalamic connectivity in two patients, both presenting with an isolated bilateral infarct in the thalamus, but exhibiting partially different cognitive and behavioural profiles. Both patients (G.P. and R.F.) had a pervasive deficit in episodic memory, but only one of them (R.F.) suffered also from a dysexecutive syndrome. Both patients had an MRI scan at 3T, including a T1-weighted volume. Their lesions were manually segmented. T1-volumes were normalised to standard space, and the same transformations were applied to the lesion masks. Nineteen healthy controls underwent a diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) scan. Their DTI data were normalised to standard space and averaged. An atlas of Brodmann areas was used to parcellate the prefrontal cortex. Probabilistic tractography was used to assess the probability of connection between each voxel of the thalamus and a set of prefrontal areas. The resulting map of corticothalamic connections was superimposed onto the patients' lesion masks, to assess whether the location of the thalamic lesions in R.F. (but not in G. P.) implied connections with prefrontal areas involved in dysexecutive syndromes. In G.P., the lesion fell within areas of the thalamus poorly connected with prefrontal areas, showing only a modest probability of connection with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Conversely, R.F.'s lesion fell within thalamic areas extensively connected with the ACC bilaterally, with the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and with the left supplementary motor area. Despite a similar, bilateral involvement of the thalamus, the use of connectivity-based segmentation clarified that R.F.'s lesions only were located within nuclei highly connected with the prefrontal cortical areas, thus explaining the patient's frontal syndrome. This study confirms that DTI tractography is a useful tool to examine in vivo the effect of focal lesions on interconnectivity brain patterns.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)