Intrahemispheric cortico-cortical connections of the human auditory cortex
The human auditory cortex comprises the supratemporal plane and large parts of the temporal and parietal convexities. We have investigated the relevant intrahemispheric cortico-cortical connections using in vivo DSI tractography combined with landmark-based registration, automatic cortical parcellation and whole-brain structural connection matrices in 20 right-handed male subjects. On the supratemporal plane, the pattern of connectivity was related to the architectonically defined early-stage auditory areas. It revealed a three-tier architecture characterized by a cascade of connections from the primary auditory cortex to six adjacent non-primary areas and from there to the superior temporal gyrus. Graph theory-driven analysis confirmed the cascade-like connectivity pattern and demonstrated a strong degree of segregation and hierarchy within early-stage auditory areas. Putative higher-order areas on the temporal and parietal convexities had more widely spread local connectivity and long-range connections with the prefrontal cortex; analysis of optimal community structure revealed five distinct modules in each hemisphere. The pattern of temporo-parieto-frontal connectivity was partially asymmetrical. In conclusion, the human early-stage auditory cortical connectivity, as revealed by in vivo DSI tractography, has strong similarities with that of non-human primates. The modular architecture and hemispheric asymmetry in higher-order regions is compatible with segregated processing streams and lateralization of cognitive functions.