Anxiety and addiction disorders are two of the most common mental disorders in the United States, and are typically chronic, disabling, and comorbid. Emerging evidence suggests the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) mediates both anxiety and addiction through connections with other brain regions, including the amygdala and nucleus accumbens. Although BNST structural connections have been identified in rodents and a limited number of structural connections have been verified in non-human primates, BNST connections have yet to be described in humans. Neuroimaging is a powerful tool for identifying structural and functional circuits in vivo. In this study, we examined BNST structural and functional connectivity in a large sample of humans. The BNST showed structural and functional connections with multiple subcortical regions, including limbic, thalamic, and basal ganglia structures, confirming structural findings in rodents. We describe two novel connections in the human brain that have not been previously reported in rodents or non-human primates, including a structural connection with the temporal pole, and a functional connection with the paracingulate gyrus. The findings of this study provide a map of the BNST's structural and functional connectivity across the brain in healthy humans. In large part, the BNST neurocircuitry in humans is similar to the findings from rodents and non-human primates; however, several connections are unique to humans. Future explorations of BNST neurocircuitry in anxiety and addiction disorders have the potential to reveal novel mechanisms underlying these disabling psychiatric illnesses.
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