Subregions of DLPFC Display Graded yet Distinct Structural and Functional Connectivity.
The human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; approximately corresponding to Brodmann areas 9 and 46) has demonstrable roles in diverse executive functions such as working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning, inhibition, and abstract reasoning. However, it remains unclear whether this is the result of one functionally homogeneous region or whether there are functional subdivisions within the DLPFC. Here, we divided the DLPFC into seven areas along rostral-caudal and dorsal-ventral axes anatomically and explored their respective patterns of structural and functional connectivity. In vivo probabilistic tractography (11 females and 13 males) and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI; 57 females and 21 males) were employed to map out the patterns of connectivity from each DLPFC subregion. Structural connectivity demonstrated graded intraregional connectivity within the DLPFC. The patterns of structural connectivity between the DLPFC subregions and other cortical areas revealed that the dorsal-rostral subregions connections were restricted to other frontal and limbic areas, whereas the ventral-caudal region was widely connected to frontal, parietal, and limbic cortex. Functional connectivity analyses demonstrated that subregions of DLPFC were strongly interconnected to each other. The dorsal subregions were associated with the default mode network (DMN), while middle dorsal-rostral subregions were linked with the multiple demand network (MDN). The ventral-caudal subregion showed increased functional coupling with both DMN and MDN. Our results suggest that the connectivity of the DLPFC may be subdivided along a dorsorostral-ventrocaudal axis with differing (albeit graded) patterns of connectivity reflecting the integrative executive function of the DLPFC.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Research has shown that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plays a role in various executive functions. By dividing the DLPFC into seven areas along rostral-caudal and dorsal-ventral axes anatomically, we explored their patterns of structural and functional connectivity. The patterns of connectivity within DLPFC subregions demonstrated graded intraregional connectivity. There were distinctive patterns of connectivity with other cortical areas in dorsal-rostral and ventral-caudal DLPFC subregions. Divisions across DLPFC subregions seem to align with their structural and functional connectivity. Our results suggest that DLPFC may be subdivided by the diagonal axis of the dorsal-ventral axis and rostral-caudal axis, supporting the framework of a functional organization along the anterior-posterior axis in the lateral PFC.
Online Publication Date
European Research Council (670428)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00005/18)