The overall goal of this work is to demonstrate how resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals may be used to objectively parcellate functionally heterogeneous subregions of the human amygdala into structures characterized by similar patterns of functional connectivity. We hypothesize that similarity of functional connectivity of subregions with other parts of the brain can be a potential basis to segment and cluster voxels using data driven approaches. In this work, self-organizing map (SOM) was implemented to cluster the connectivity maps associated with each voxel of the human amygdala, thereby defining distinct subregions. The functional separation was optimized by evaluating the overall differences in functional connectivity between the subregions at group level. Analysis of 25 resting state fMRI data sets suggests that SOM can successfully identify functionally independent nuclei based on differences in their inter subregional functional connectivity, evaluated statistically at various confidence levels. Although amygdala contains several nuclei whose distinct roles are implicated in various functions, our objective approach discerns at least two functionally distinct volumes comparable to previous parcellation results obtained using probabilistic tractography and cytoarchitectonic analysis. Association of these nuclei with various known functions and a quantitative evaluation of their differences in overall functional connectivity with lateral orbital frontal cortex and temporal pole confirms the functional diversity of amygdala. The data driven approach adopted here may be used as a powerful indicator of structure-function relationships in the amygdala and other functionally heterogeneous structures as well.
Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.