The frontal aslant tract and its role in executive functions: A quantitative tractography study in glioma patients

Maud Landers*, Stephan P.L. Meesters, Martine van Zandvoort, Wouter De Baene, Geert-Jan Rutten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Focal white matter lesions can cause cognitive impairments due to disconnections within or between networks. There is some preliminary evidence that there are specific hubs and fiber pathways that should be spared during surgery to retain cognitive performance. A tract potentially involved in important higher-level cognitive processes is the frontal aslant tract. It roughly connects the posterior parts of the inferior frontal gyrus and the superior frontal gyrus. Functionally, the left frontal aslant tract has been associated with speech and the right tract with executive functions. However, there currently is insufficient knowledge about the right frontal aslant tract’s exact functional importance. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the right frontal aslant tract in executive functions via a lesion-symptom approach. We retrospectively examined 72 patients with frontal glial tumors and correlated measures from tractography (distance between tract and tumor, and structural integrity of the tract) with cognitive test performances. The results indicated involvement of the right frontal aslant tract in shifting attention and letter fluency. This involvement was not found for the left tract. Although this study was exploratory, these converging findings contribute to a better understanding of the functional frontal subcortical anatomy. Shifting attention and letter fluency are important for healthy cognitive functioning, and when impaired they may greatly influence a patient’s wellbeing. Further research is needed to assess whether or not damage to the right frontal aslant tract causes permanent cognitive impairments, and consequently identifies this tract as a critical pathway that
should be taken into account during neurosurgical procedures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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