J Schmitz, C Fraenz , C Schlüter, P Friedrich, R Jung, O Güntürkün, E Genç and S Ocklenburg

Hemispheric asymmetries in cortical gray matter microstructure identified by neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging


Histological studies have reported microstructural hemispheric asymmetries in several cortical areas of the human brain, but reliable in vivo assessment methods have been lacking so far. Here, we used neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) to examine microstructural asymmetries in in vivo and determine if findings are in accordance with what has been reported in histological studies. We examined intra-neurite volume fraction (INVF), neurite orientation dispersion (ODI), and isotropic volume fraction (ISO) asymmetries in two independent samples of healthy adults (n = 269 and n = 251). Over both samples, we found greater left-hemispheric INVF in early auditory, inferior parietal and temporal-parietal-occipital areas. In contrast, we found greater right-hemispheric INVF in the fusiform and inferior temporal gyrus, reflecting what has been reported in histological studies. ODI was asymmetric towards the left hemisphere in frontal areas and towards the right hemisphere in early auditory areas. ISO showed less pronounced asymmetries. There were hardly any effects of sex or handedness on microstructural asymmetry as determined by NODDI. Taken together, these findings suggest substantial microstructural asymmetries in gray matter, making NODDI a promising marker for future genetic and behavioral studies on laterality.