Connectivity of the human periventricular—periaqueductal gray region
Sillery E., Bittar RG., Robson MD., Behrens TEJ., Stein J., Aziz TZ., Johansen-Berg H.
Object. The periventricular gray (PVG) zone and its continuation, the periaqueductal gray (PAG) substance, have been targets for deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the alleviation of intractable pain for longer than two decades. Nevertheless, the anatomical connectivity of this region has been fairly poorly defined. The effects of DBS in this region are probably related to the release of endogenous endorphins, but until the connectivity of this region is better understood the mechanisms will remain unclear. Methods. Diffusion tractography was used to trace the pathways of the PVG—PAG region in seven healthy human volunteers. Images were acquired with the aid of a 1.5-tesla magnetic resonance imaging system. The region of interest was located just lateral to the posterior commissure and extended caudally to the level of the superior colliculus. Probabilistic diffusion tractography was performed from each voxel in each patient's PVG—PAG region. The PVG—PAG region was found to yield descending projections to the spinal cord and cerebellum. Ascending projections to the thalamus and frontal lobes were also observed. Conclusions. These findings suggest that the PVG—PAG region may modulate pain by two mechanisms: one involving the antinociceptive system in the spinal cord and the other involving influences on the central pain network.