Mapping frontoinsular cortex from diffusion microstructure


We developed a novel method for mapping the location, surface area, thickness, and volume of frontoinsular cortex (FI) using structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. FI lies in the ventral part of anterior insular cortex and is characterized by its distinctive population von Economo neurons (VENs). Functional neuroimaging studies have revealed its involvement in affective processing, and histopathology has implicated VEN loss in behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia and chronic alcoholism; however, structural neuroimaging of FI has been relatively limited. We delineated FI by jointly modeling cortical surface geometry and its coincident diffusion microstructure parameters. We found that neurite orientation dispersion in cortical gray matter can be used to map FI in specific individuals, and the derived measures reflect a range of behavioral factors in young adults from the Human Connectome Project (N=1052). FI volume was larger in the left hemisphere than the right (31%), and the percentage volume of FI was larger in women than men (15.3%). FI volume was associated with measures of decision-making (delay discounting, substance abuse), emotion (negative intrusive thinking and perception of hostility), and social behavior (theory of mind and working memory for faces). The common denominator is that larger FI size is related to greater self-control and social awareness.

Cerebral Cortex