The nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) is a nuclei complex with, among others, a high concentration of noradrenergic neurons (including the noradrenergic subnuclei named A1 and A2) in the medulla. The NTS regulates several cognitive, neuroendocrine and autonomic functions. No method currently exists to anatomically visualize the NTS in vivo. Several noradrenergic and dopaminergic nuclei have been successfully imaged using Magnetization Transfer (MT) contrast manipulation. We therefore hypothesized that an efficient, high-resolution MT-weighted sequence at 7 T might successfully image the NTS. In this study, we found a hyperintensity, similar to hyperintensities found in other noradrenergic and dopaminergic nuclei, consistent with the expected NTS location, and specific to the MT-weighted images. The localization of the hyperintensity was found to be consistent between individuals and slices and in good correspondence to a histological atlas and a meta-analytic map of fMRI-based NTS activation. We conclude that the method may, for the first time, achieve NTS imaging in vivo and within a clinically-feasible acquisition time. To facilitate NTS research at lower field strengths, an NTS template was created and made publicly available.
- FMRI EVIDENCE
- HUMAN BRAIN
- Magnetization transfer
- Nucleus of the solitary tract