Connectivity between the superior colliculus and the amygdala in humans and macaque monkeys: virtual dissection with probabilistic DTI tractography.
Rafal RD., Koller K., Bultitude JH., Mullins P., Ward R., Mitchell AS., Bell AH.
It has been suggested that some cortically blind patients can process the emotional valence of visual stimuli via a fast, subcortical pathway from the superior colliculus (SC) that reaches the amygdala via the pulvinar. We provide in vivo evidence for connectivity between the SC and the amygdala via the pulvinar in both humans and rhesus macaques. Probabilistic diffusion tensor imaging tractography revealed a streamlined path that passes dorsolaterally through the pulvinar before arcing rostrally to traverse above the temporal horn of the lateral ventricle and connect to the lateral amygdala. To obviate artifactual connectivity with crossing fibers of the stria terminalis, the stria was also dissected. The putative streamline between the SC and amygdala traverses above the temporal horn dorsal to the stria terminalis and is positioned medial to it in humans and lateral to it in monkeys. The topography of the streamline was examined in relation to lesion anatomy in five patients who had previously participated in behavioral experiments studying the processing of emotionally valenced visual stimuli. The pulvinar lesion interrupted the streamline in two patients who had exhibited contralesional processing deficits and spared the streamline in three patients who had no deficit. Although not definitive, this evidence supports the existence of a subcortical pathway linking the SC with the amygdala in primates. It also provides a necessary bridge between behavioral data obtained in future studies of neurological patients, and any forthcoming evidence from more invasive techniques, such as anatomical tracing studies and electrophysiological investigations only possible in nonhuman species.