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Concept: Neuroanatomy


Whereas a categorical difference in the genitals has always been acknowledged, the question of how far these categories extend into human biology is still not resolved. Documented sex/gender differences in the brain are often taken as support of a sexually dimorphic view of human brains (“female brain” or “male brain”). However, such a distinction would be possible only if sex/gender differences in brain features were highly dimorphic (i.e., little overlap between the forms of these features in males and females) and internally consistent (i.e., a brain has only “male” or only “female” features). Here, analysis of MRIs of more than 1,400 human brains from four datasets reveals extensive overlap between the distributions of females and males for all gray matter, white matter, and connections assessed. Moreover, analyses of internal consistency reveal that brains with features that are consistently at one end of the “maleness-femaleness” continuum are rare. Rather, most brains are comprised of unique “mosaics” of features, some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males. Our findings are robust across sample, age, type of MRI, and method of analysis. These findings are corroborated by a similar analysis of personality traits, attitudes, interests, and behaviors of more than 5,500 individuals, which reveals that internal consistency is extremely rare. Our study demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Male, Gender, Human brain, Sex, Cerebellum


The effects of acute sleep deprivation on β-amyloid (Aβ) clearance in the human brain have not been documented. Here we used PET and 18F-florbetaben to measure brain Aβ burden (ABB) in 20 healthy controls tested after a night of rested sleep (baseline) and after a night of sleep deprivation. We show that one night of sleep deprivation, relative to baseline, resulted in a significant increase in Aβ burden in the right hippocampus and thalamus. These increases were associated with mood worsening following sleep deprivation, but were not related to the genetic risk (APOE genotype) for Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, baseline ABB in a range of subcortical regions and the precuneus was inversely associated with reported night sleep hours. APOE genotyping was also linked to subcortical ABB, suggesting that different Alzheimer’s disease risk factors might independently affect ABB in nearby brain regions. In summary, our findings show adverse effects of one-night sleep deprivation on brain ABB and expand on prior findings of higher Aβ accumulation with chronic less sleep.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuron, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Apolipoprotein E


High-level cognitive and emotional experience arises from brain activity, but the specific brain substrates for religious and spiritual euphoria remain unclear. We demonstrate using fMRI scans in 19 devout Mormons that a recognizable feeling central to their devotional practice was reproducibly associated with activation in nucleus accumbens, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and frontal attentional regions. Nucleus accumbens activation preceded peak spiritual feelings by 1-3 seconds and was replicated in 4 separate tasks. Attentional activation in the anterior cingulate and frontal eye fields was greater in the right hemisphere. The association of abstract ideas and brain reward circuitry may interact with frontal attentional and emotive salience processing, suggesting a mechanism whereby doctrinal concepts may come to be intrinsically rewarding and motivate behavior in religious individuals.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebrum, Basal ganglia, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex


Modern medicine has generally viewed the concept of “psychosomatic” disease with suspicion. This view arose partly because no neural networks were known for the mind, conceptually associated with the cerebral cortex, to influence autonomic and endocrine systems that control internal organs. Here, we used transneuronal transport of rabies virus to identify the areas of the primate cerebral cortex that communicate through multisynaptic connections with a major sympathetic effector, the adrenal medulla. We demonstrate that two broad networks in the cerebral cortex have access to the adrenal medulla. The larger network includes all of the cortical motor areas in the frontal lobe and portions of somatosensory cortex. A major component of this network originates from the supplementary motor area and the cingulate motor areas on the medial wall of the hemisphere. These cortical areas are involved in all aspects of skeletomotor control from response selection to motor preparation and movement execution. The second, smaller network originates in regions of medial prefrontal cortex, including a major contribution from pregenual and subgenual regions of anterior cingulate cortex. These cortical areas are involved in higher-order aspects of cognition and affect. These results indicate that specific multisynaptic circuits exist to link movement, cognition, and affect to the function of the adrenal medulla. This circuitry may mediate the effects of internal states like chronic stress and depression on organ function and, thus, provide a concrete neural substrate for some psychosomatic illness.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Premotor cortex, Brodmann area 24


The neurobiology of addiction is pointing the way to potential methods of disrupting the neurocircuitry with both pharmaceutical and behavioral tools. Altering the reward and emotional circuits may prevent and treat the problem.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Neuroanatomy, Brain


Sensory input evokes low-order reflexes and higher-order perceptual responses. Vestibular stimulation elicits vestibular-ocular reflex (VOR) and self-motion perception (e.g., vertigo) whose response durations are normally equal. Adaptation to repeated whole-body rotations, for example, ballet training, is known to reduce vestibular responses. We investigated the neuroanatomical correlates of vestibular perceptuo-reflex adaptation in ballet dancers and controls. Dancers' vestibular-reflex and perceptual responses to whole-body yaw-plane step rotations were: (1) Briefer and (2) uncorrelated (controls' reflex and perception were correlated). Voxel-based morphometry showed a selective gray matter (GM) reduction in dancers' vestibular cerebellum correlating with ballet experience. Dancers' vestibular cerebellar GM density reduction was related to shorter perceptual responses (i.e. positively correlated) but longer VOR duration (negatively correlated). Contrastingly, controls' vestibular cerebellar GM density negatively correlated with perception and VOR. Diffusion-tensor imaging showed that cerebral cortex white matter (WM) microstructure correlated with vestibular perception but only in controls. In summary, dancers display vestibular perceptuo-reflex dissociation with the neuronatomical correlate localized to the vestibular cerebellum. Controls' robust vestibular perception correlated with a cortical WM network conspicuously absent in dancers. Since primary vestibular afferents synapse in the vestibular cerebellum, we speculate that a cerebellar gating of perceptual signals to cortical regions mediates the training-related attenuation of vestibular perception and perceptuo-reflex uncoupling.

Concepts: Neuron, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, White matter, Cerebellum, Sense


Humans form beliefs asymmetrically; we tend to discount bad news but embrace good news. This reduced impact of unfavorable information on belief updating may have important societal implications, including the generation of financial market bubbles, ill preparedness in the face of natural disasters, and overly aggressive medical decisions. Here, we selectively improved people’s tendency to incorporate bad news into their beliefs by disrupting the function of the left (but not right) inferior frontal gyrus using transcranial magnetic stimulation, thereby eliminating the engrained “good news/bad news effect.” Our results provide an instance of how selective disruption of regional human brain function paradoxically enhances the ability to incorporate unfavorable information into beliefs of vulnerability.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Natural selection, Human brain, Frontal lobe, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Religion, Inferior frontal gyrus


Drug-related cues induce craving, which may perpetuate drug use or trigger relapse in addicted individuals. Craving is also under the influence of other factors in daily life, such as drug availability and self-control. Neuroimaging studies using drug cue paradigms have shown frontal lobe involvement in this contextual influence on cue reactivity, but have not clarified how and which frontal area accounts for this phenomenon. We explored frontal lobe contributions to cue-induced drug craving under different intertemporal drug availability conditions by combining transcranial magnetic stimulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging in smokers. We hypothesized that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) regulates craving during changes in intertemporal availability. Subjective craving was greater when cigarettes were immediately available, and this effect was eliminated by transiently inactivating the DLPFC with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated that the signal most proportional to subjective craving was located in the medial orbitofrontal cortex across all contexts, whereas the DLPFC most strongly encoded intertemporal availability information. The craving-related signal in the medial orbitofrontal cortex was attenuated by inactivation of the DLPFC, particularly when cigarettes were immediately available. Inactivation of the DLPFC also reduced craving-related signals in the anterior cingulate and ventral striatum, areas implicated in transforming value signals into action. These findings indicate that DLPFC builds up value signals based on knowledge of drug availability, and support a model wherein aberrant circuitry linking dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices may underlie addiction.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebrum, Addiction, Limbic system, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Frontal lobe, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex


Following brain lesions, previously normal patients sometimes exhibit criminal behavior. Although rare, these cases can lend unique insight into the neurobiological substrate of criminality. Here we present a systematic mapping of lesions with known temporal association to criminal behavior, identifying 17 lesion cases. The lesion sites were spatially heterogeneous, including the medial prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and different locations within the bilateral temporal lobes. No single brain region was damaged in all cases. Because lesion-induced symptoms can come from sites connected to the lesion location and not just the lesion location itself, we also identified brain regions functionally connected to each lesion location. This technique, termed lesion network mapping, has recently identified regions involved in symptom generation across a variety of lesion-induced disorders. All lesions were functionally connected to the same network of brain regions. This criminality-associated connectivity pattern was unique compared with lesions causing four other neuropsychiatric syndromes. This network includes regions involved in morality, value-based decision making, and theory of mind, but not regions involved in cognitive control or empathy. Finally, we replicated our results in a separate cohort of 23 cases in which a temporal relationship between brain lesions and criminal behavior was implied but not definitive. Our results suggest that lesions in criminals occur in different brain locations but localize to a unique resting state network, providing insight into the neurobiology of criminal behavior.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Crime, Frontal lobe, Premotor cortex


Detailed anatomical understanding of the human brain is essential for unraveling its functional architecture, yet current reference atlases have major limitations in terms of lack of whole-brain coverage, relatively low image resolution, and sparse structural annotation. We present the first digital human brain atlas to incorporate neuroimaging, high-resolution histology, and chemoarchitecture across a complete adult female brain, consisting of MRI, DWI, and 1356 large-format cellular resolution (1 µm/pixel) Nissl and immunohistochemistry anatomical plates. The atlas is comprehensively annotated for 862 structures, including 117 white matter tracts and several novel cyto- and chemoarchitecturally defined structures, and these annotations were transferred onto the matching MRI dataset. Neocortical delineations were done for sulci, gyri, and modified Brodmann areas to link macroscopic anatomical and microscopic cytoarchitectural parcellations. Correlated neuroimaging and histological structural delineation allowed fine feature identification in MRI data and subsequent structural identification in MRI data from other brains. This interactive online digital atlas is integrated with existing Allen Institute for Brain Science gene expression atlases and is publicly accessible as a resource for the neuroscience community. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Gene, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Histology, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebellum, Annotation