Microsurgical anatomy of the auditory radiations: revealing the enigmatic acoustic pathway from a surgical viewpoint

J Neurosurg 138:1443–1456, 2023

The thalamocortical projections of the auditory system have not been detailed via microanatomical fiber dissections from a surgical viewpoint. The aim of this study was to delineate the course of the auditory radiations (ARs) from the medial geniculate body to their final destination in the auditory cortex. The authors’ additional purpose was to display the relevant neural structures in relation to their course en route to Heschl’s gyrus.

METHODS White matter fibers were dissected layer by layer in a lateral-to-medial, inferolateral-to-superomedial, and inferior-to-superior fashion.

RESULTS The origin of ARs just distal to the medial geniculate body was revealed following the removal of the parahippocampal gyrus, cingulum bundle, and mesial temporal structures, in addition to the lateral geniculate body. Removing the fimbria, stria terminalis, and the tail of the caudate nucleus along the roof of the temporal horn in an inferior-to-superior direction exposed the lateral compartment of the sublenticular segment of the internal capsule as the predominant obstacle that prevents access to the ARs. The ARs were initially obscured by the inferolaterally located temporopulvinar tract of Arnold, and their initial course passed posterolateral to the temporopontine fascicle of Türck. The ARs subsequently traversed above the temporopulvinar fibers in a perpendicular manner and coursed in between the optic radiations at the sensory intersection region deep to the inferior limiting sulcus of insula. The distal part of the ARs intermingled with the fibers of the anterior commissure and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus during its ascent toward Heschl’s gyrus. The ARs finally projected to a large area over the superior temporal gyrus, extending well beyond the anteroposterior boundaries of the transverse temporal gyri.

CONCLUSIONS The ARs can be appreciated as a distinct fiber bundle ascending between the fibers of the sublenticular segment of the internal capsule and traversing superiorly along the roof of the temporal horn by spanning between the optic radiations. Our novel findings suggest potential disruption of the ARs’ integrity during transsylvian and transtemporal approaches along the roof of the temporal horn toward the mesial temporal lobe. The detailed 3D understanding of the ARs’ relations and awareness of their course may prove helpful to secure surgical interventions to the region.