Functional Anatomy of the Thalamus as a Model of Integrated Structural and Functional Connectivity of the Human Brain In Vivo

Chiara Mastropasqua, Marco Bozzali, Barbara Spanò, Giacomo Koch, Mara Cercignani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While methods of measuring non-invasively both, functional and structural brain connectivity are available, the degree of overlap between them is still unknown. In this paper this issue is addressed by investigating the connectivity pattern of a brain structure with many, well characterized structural connections, namely the thalamus. Diffusion-weighted and resting state (RS) functional MRI (fMRI) data were collected in a group of 38 healthy participants. Probabilistic tractography was performed to parcellate the thalamus into regions structurally connected to different cortical areas. The resulting regions were used as seeds for seed-based analysis of RS fMRI data. The tractographic parcellation was thus cross-validated against functional connectivity data by evaluating the overlap between the functional and structural thalamo-cortical connections originating from the parcellated regions. Our data show only a partial overall correspondence between structural and functional connections, in the same group of healthy individuals, thus suggesting that the two approaches provide complementary and not overlapping information. Future studies are warranted to extend the results we obtained in the thalamus to other structures, and to confirm that the mechanisms behind functional connectivity are more complex than just expressing structural connectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-558
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 2015


  • Diffusion
  • Resting-state fMRI
  • Thalamo-cortical connections
  • Tractography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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