Background: MR Tractography enables non-invasive preoperative depiction of language subcortical tracts, which is crucial for the presurgical work-up of brain tumors; however, it cannot evaluate the exact function of the fibers. Purpose: A systematic pipeline was developed to combine tractography reconstruction of language fiber bundles, based on anatomical landmarks (Anatomical-T), with language fMRI cortical activations. A fMRI-targeted Tractography (fMRI-T) was thus obtained, depicting the subsets of the anatomical tracts whose endpoints are located inside a fMRI activation. We hypothesized that fMRI-T could provide additional functional information regarding the subcortical structures, better reflecting the eloquent white matter structures identified intraoperatively. Methods: Both Anatomical-T and fMRI-T of language fiber tracts were performed on 16 controls and preoperatively on 16 patients with left-hemisphere brain tumors, using a q-ball residual bootstrap algorithm based on High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging (HARDI) datasets (b = 3000 s/mm2; 60 directions); fMRI ROIs were obtained using picture naming, verbal fluency, and auditory verb generation tasks. In healthy controls, normalized MNI atlases of fMRI-T and Anatomical-T were obtained. In patients, the surgical resection of the tumor was pursued by identifying eloquent structures with intraoperative direct electrical stimulation mapping and extending surgery to the functional boundaries. Post-surgical MRI allowed to identify Anatomical-T and fMRI-T non-eloquent portions removed during the procedure. Results: MNI Atlases showed that fMRI-T is a subset of Anatomical-T, and that different task-specific fMRI-T involve both shared subsets and task-specific subsets – e.g., verbal fluency fMRI-T strongly involves dorsal frontal tracts, consistently with the phonogical-articulatory features of this task. A quantitative analysis in patients revealed that Anatomical-T removed portions of AF-SLF and IFOF were significantly greater than verbal fluency fMRI-T ones, suggesting that fMRI-T is a more specific approach. In addition, qualitative analyses showed that fMRI-T AF-SLF and IFOF predict the exact functional limits of resection with increased specificity when compared to Anatomical-T counterparts, especially the superior frontal portion of IFOF, in a subcohort of patients. Conclusion: These results suggest that performing fMRI-T in addition to the ‘classic’ Anatomical-T may be useful in a preoperative setting to identify the ‘high-risk subsets’ that should be spared during the surgical procedure.
- brain tumor
- high angular resolution diffusion imaging
- language network
- presurgical brain mapping
ASJC Scopus subject areas