Study explores hidden territory of the human brain


Neuroscientists at the Technische Universitat Dresden have discovered a new, non-invasive imaging method to study the visual sensory thalamus, an important structure in the human brain and the point of origin of visual difficulties in diseases such as dyslexia and glaucoma. The new method could provide an in-depth understanding of visual sensory processing in the field of health and disease in the near future. The study was published in the journal ‘NeuroImage’.

The visual sensory thalamus is a key region that connects the eyes to the cerebral cortex. It contains two main compartments. Symptoms of many diseases are associated with changes in this region. So far, it has been very difficult to assess these two compartments in living humans, as they are tiny and located very deep inside the brain. This difficulty in studying the visual sensory thalamus in detail has significantly hampered understanding of the function of visual sensory processing in the past. Coincidentally, Christa Muller-Axt, a doctoral student in the laboratory of neuroscientist Prof. Katharina von Kriegstein at TU Dresden, discovered structures that she believes could resemble the two visual sensory compartments of the thalamus in neuroimaging data.

The neuroimaging data was unique because it had unprecedented high spatial resolution obtained on a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine at MPI-CBS in Leipzig, where the group was researching developmental dyslexia. She continued this discovery in a series of new experiments involving the analysis of high spatial resolution in vivo and postmortem MRI data as well as postmortem histology and was soon sure she had discovered the two main compartments. of the visual sensory thalamus. The results showed that the two main compartments of the visual sensory thalamus are characterized by different amounts of cerebral white matter (myelin). This information can be detected in new MRI data and can therefore be used to study both compartments of the visual sensory thalamus in living humans.

“The discovery that we can display the visual sensory compartments of the thalamus in living humans is fantastic, as it will be a great tool to understand visual sensory processing in both health and disease in the near future.” , says first author Christa Muller-Axt. Christa further explains: “Post-mortem studies in developmental dyslexia have shown that there are alterations specifically in one of the two compartments of the visual sensory thalamus. However, there are very few such postmortem studies, so it is difficult to say whether all dyslexics are characterized by this type of visual sensory alteration of the thalamus. Furthermore, post-mortem data cannot reveal anything about the functional impact of these alterations and their specific contribution to the symptoms of developmental dyslexia. Therefore, we expect that our novel in vivo approach will be of great benefit in facilitating research on the role of the visual sensory thalamus in developmental dyslexia. ”(ANI)

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