Comprehensive in vivo mapping of the human basal ganglia and thalamic connectome in individuals using 7T MRI.
ABSTRACT: Basal ganglia circuits are affected in neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD), essential tremor, dystonia and Tourette syndrome. Understanding the structural and functional connectivity of these circuits is critical for elucidating the mechanisms of the movement and neuropsychiatric disorders, and is vital for developing new therapeutic strategies such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). Knowledge about the connectivity of the human basal ganglia and thalamus has rapidly evolved over recent years through non-invasive imaging techniques, but has remained incomplete because of insufficient resolution and sensitivity of these techniques. Here, we present an imaging and computational protocol designed to generate a comprehensive in vivo and subject-specific, three-dimensional model of the structure and connections of the human basal ganglia. High-resolution structural and functional magnetic resonance images were acquired with a 7-Tesla magnet. Capitalizing on the enhanced signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and enriched contrast obtained at high-field MRI, detailed structural and connectivity representations of the human basal ganglia and thalamus were achieved. This unique combination of multiple imaging modalities enabled the in-vivo visualization of the individual human basal ganglia and thalamic nuclei, the reconstruction of seven white-matter pathways and their connectivity probability that, to date, have only been reported in animal studies, histologically, or group-averaged MRI population studies. Also described are subject-specific parcellations of the basal ganglia and thalamus into sub-territories based on their distinct connectivity patterns. These anatomical connectivity findings are supported by functional connectivity data derived from resting-state functional MRI (R-fMRI). This work demonstrates new capabilities for studying basal ganglia circuitry, and opens new avenues of investigation into the movement and neuropsychiatric disorders, in individual human subjects.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The pathophysiological changes before the presentation of clinical symptoms in parkinsonism are unclear. In this study, we investigated neural network modulations in persons in the preclinical stage of familial parkinsonism, and how the network interactions change at the clinical stage. METHODS:We performed functional MRI in a family with SCA2 mutation, including 9 asymptomatic carriers and 10 mutation carriers with parkinsonian symptoms. Functional connectivity from the posterior putamen bilaterally and rostral supplementary motor area was used to explore network interactions in the subjects. RESULTS:Both the asymptomatic carriers and patients had decreased connectivity within the basal ganglia-thalamus-cortical motor loop compared to controls. The asymptomatic carriers showed extensively increased connectivity compared to controls, including the cortico-cortical motor, cortico-cerebellar, cortico-brainstem, and part of the basal ganglia-thalamus-cortical motor circuits. In contrast, the connectivity of most of these networks was decreased in the patients. These abnormalities were relatively normalized after levodopa administration. CONCLUSIONS:In the preclinical stage of SCA2 parkinsonism, the connectivity of a part of the basal ganglia motor loop is weakened as a consequence of dopaminergic deficits; meanwhile, the connectivity of other large-scale brain networks is strengthened presumably to compensate for the dysfunction of the basal ganglia to maintain brain function in the early stage of dopaminergic deficits. The simultaneous effects of progressive disruption of basal ganglia motor circuits and failure of compensatory mechanisms as dopaminergic dysfunction progresses may contribute to the onset of clinical symptoms.
Project description:Anorexia nervosa (AN) is characterized by extremely low body weight resulting from pathological food restriction, and carries a mortality rate among the highest of any psychiatric illness. AN, particularly during the acute, underweight state of the illness, has been associated with abnormalities across a range of brain regions, including the frontal cortex and basal ganglia. Few studies of AN have investigated the thalamus, a key mediator of information flow through frontal-basal ganglia circuit loops. We examined both thalamic surface morphology using anatomical MRI and thalamo-frontal functional connectivity using resting-state functional MRI. Individuals with AN (n=28) showed localized inward deformations of the thalamus relative to healthy controls (HC, n=22), and abnormal functional connectivity between the thalamus and the dorsolateral and anterior prefrontal cortices. Alterations in thalamo-frontal connectivity were associated with deficits in performance on tasks probing cognitive control (Stroop task) and working memory (Letter-Number Sequencing (LNS) task). Our findings suggest that abnormalities in thalamo-frontal circuits may have a role in mediating aspects of cognitive dysfunction in underweight individuals with AN.
Project description:Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by the presence of motor and vocal tics. Major pathophysiological theories posit a dysfunction of the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuits as being a representative hallmark of the disease. Recent evidence suggests a more widespread dysfunction of brain networks in TS including the cerebellum and going even beyond classic motor pathways. In order to characterize brain network dysfunction in TS, in this study we investigated functional and effective-like connectivity as well as topological changes of basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical and cortico-cerebellar brain networks. We collected resting-state fMRI data from 28 TS patients (age: 32 ± 11 years) and 28 age-matched, healthy controls (age: 31 ± 9 years). Region of interest based (ROI-ROI) bivariate correlation and ROI-ROI bivariate regression were employed as measures of functional and effective-like connectivity, respectively. Graph theoretical measures of centrality (degree, cost, betweenness centrality), functional segregation (clustering coefficient, local efficiency) and functional integration (average path length, global efficiency) were used to assess topological brain network changes. In this study, TS patients exhibited increased basal ganglia-cortical and thalamo-cortical connectivity, reduced cortico-cerebellar connectivity, and an increase in parallel communication through the basal ganglia, thalamus and cerebellum (increased global efficiency). Additionally, we observed a reduction in serial information transfer (reduction in average path length) within the default mode and the salience network. In summary, our findings show that TS is characterized by increased connectivity and functional integration of multiple basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuits, suggesting a predominance of excitatory neurotransmission and a lack of brain maturation. Moreover, topological changes of cortico-cerebellar and brain networks involved in interoception may be underestimated neural correlates of tics and the crucial premonitory urge feeling.
Project description:Functional changes in basal ganglia circuitry are responsible for the major clinical features of Parkinson's disease (PD). Current models of basal ganglia circuitry can only partially explain the cardinal symptoms in PD. We used functional MRI to investigate the causal connectivity of basal ganglia networks from the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) in PD in the movement and resting state. In controls, SNc activity predicted increased activity in the supplementary motor area, the default mode network, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but, in patients, activity predicted decreases in the same structures. The SNc had decreased connectivity with the striatum, globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, thalamus, supplementary motor area, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, insula, default mode network, temporal lobe, cerebellum, and pons in patients compared to controls. Levodopa administration partially normalized the pattern of connectivity. Our findings show how the dopaminergic system exerts influences on widespread brain networks, including motor and cognitive networks. The pattern of basal ganglia network connectivity is abnormal in PD secondary to dopamine depletion, and is more deviant in more severe disease. Use of functional MRI with network analysis appears to be a useful method to demonstrate basal ganglia pathways in vivo in human subjects.
Project description:Parkinson's disease (PD) affects 2-3% of the population over the age of 65 with loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra impacting the functioning of basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits. The precise role played by the thalamus is unknown, despite its critical role in the functioning of the cerebral cortex, and the abnormal neuronal activity of the structure in PD. Our objective was to more clearly elucidate how functional connectivity and morphology of the thalamus are impacted in PD (n = 32) compared to Controls (n = 20). To investigate functional connectivity of the thalamus we subdivided the structure into two important regions-of-interest, the first with putative connections to the motor cortices and the second with putative connections to prefrontal cortices. We then investigated potential differences in the size and shape of the thalamus in PD, and how morphology and functional connectivity relate to clinical variables. Our data demonstrate that PD is associated with increases in functional connectivity between motor subdivisions of the thalamus and the supplementary motor area, and between prefrontal thalamic subdivisions and nuclei of the basal ganglia, anterior and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, as well as the anterior and paracingulate gyri. These results suggest that PD is associated with increased functional connectivity of subdivisions of the thalamus which may be indicative alterations to basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuitry.
Project description:Basal ganglia and the cerebellum are part of a densely interconnected network. While both subcortical structures process information in basically segregated loops that primarily interact in the neocortex, direct subcortical interaction has been recently confirmed by neuroanatomical studies using viral transneuronal tracers in non-human primate brains. The thalamus is thought to be the main relay station of both projection systems. Yet, our understanding of subcortical basal ganglia and cerebellar interconnectivity within the human thalamus is rather sparse, primarily due to limitation in the acquisition of in vivo tracing. Consequently, we strive to characterize projections of both systems and their potential overlap within the human thalamus by diffusion MRI and tractography. Our analysis revealed a decreasing anterior-to-posterior gradient for pallido-thalamic connections in: (1) the ventral-anterior thalamus, (2) the intralaminar nuclei, and (3) midline regions. Conversely, we found a decreasing posterior-to-anterior gradient for dentato-thalamic projections predominantly in: (1) the ventral-lateral and posterior nucleus; (2) dorsal parts of the intralaminar nuclei and the subparafascicular nucleus, and (3) the medioventral and lateral mediodorsal nucleus. A considerable overlap of connectivity pattern was apparent in intralaminar nuclei and midline regions. Notably, pallidal and cerebellar projections were both hemispherically lateralized to the left thalamus. While strikingly consistent with findings from transneuronal studies in non-human primates as well as with pre-existing anatomical studies on developmentally expressed markers or pathological human brains, our assessment provides distinctive connectional fingerprints that illustrate the anatomical substrate of integrated functional networks between basal ganglia and the cerebellum. Thereby, our findings furnish useful implications for cerebellar contributions to the clinical symptomatology of movement disorders.
Project description:Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is associated with pathological changes along the dentatorubrothalamic tract and in premotor cortex. We aimed to assess whether functional neural connectivity is disrupted along this pathway in PSP, and to determine how functional changes relate to changes in structure and diffusion. Eighteen probable PSP subjects and 18 controls had resting-state (task-free) fMRI, diffusion tensor imaging and structural MRI. Functional connectivity was assessed between thalamus and the rest of the brain, and within the basal ganglia, salience and default mode networks (DMN). Patterns of atrophy were assessed using voxel-based morphometry, and patterns of white matter tract degeneration were assessed using tract-based spatial statistics. Reduced in-phase functional connectivity was observed between the thalamus and premotor cortex including supplemental motor area (SMA), striatum, thalamus and cerebellum in PSP. Reduced connectivity in premotor cortex, striatum and thalamus were observed in the basal ganglia network and DMN, with subcortical salience network reductions. Tract degeneration was observed between cerebellum and thalamus and in superior longitudinal fasciculus, with grey matter loss in frontal lobe, premotor cortex, SMA and caudate nucleus. SMA functional connectivity correlated with SMA volume and measures of cognitive and motor dysfunction, while thalamic connectivity correlated with degeneration of superior cerebellar peduncles. PSP is therefore associated with disrupted thalamocortical connectivity that is associated with degeneration of the dentatorubrothalamic tract and the presence of cortical atrophy.
Project description:Neurophysiological changes within the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits appear to be a characteristic of Parkinson's disease (PD) pathophysiology. The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is one of the basal ganglia components showing pathological neural activity patterns in PD. In this study, perfusion imaging data, acquired noninvasively using arterial spin-labeled (ASL) perfusion MRI, were used to assess the resting state functional connectivity (FC) of the STN in 24 early-to-moderate PD patients and 34 age-matched healthy controls, to determine whether altered FC in the very low frequency range of the perfusion time signal occurs as a result of the disease. Our results showed that the healthy STN was functionally connected with other nuclei of the basal ganglia and the thalamus, as well as with discrete cortical areas including the insular cortex and the hippocampus. In PD patients, connectivity of the STN was increased with two cortical areas involved in motor and cognitive processes. These findings suggest that hyperconnectivity of the STN could underlie some of the motor and cognitive deficits often present even at early stages of the disease. The FC measures provided good discrimination between controls and patients, suggesting that ASL-derived FC metrics could be a putative PD biomarker.
Project description:Persistent developmental stuttering is associated with basal ganglia dysfunction or dopamine dysregulation. Here, we studied whole-brain functional connectivity to test how basal ganglia structures coordinate and reorganize sensorimotor brain networks in stuttering. To this end, adults who stutter and fluent speakers (control participants) performed a response anticipation paradigm in the MRI scanner. The preparation of a manual Go/No-Go response reliably produced activity in the basal ganglia and thalamus and particularly in the substantia nigra. Strikingly, in adults who stutter, substantia nigra activity correlated positively with stuttering severity. Furthermore, functional connectivity analyses yielded altered task-related network formations in adults who stutter compared to fluent speakers. Specifically, in adults who stutter, the globus pallidus and the thalamus showed increased network synchronization with the inferior frontal gyrus. This implies dynamic shifts in the response preparation-related network organization through the basal ganglia in the context of a non-speech motor task in stuttering. Here we discuss current findings in the traditional framework of how D1 and D2 receptor activity shapes focused movement selection, thereby suggesting a disproportional involvement of the direct and the indirect pathway in stuttering.
Project description:Anatomical knowledge of the structures to be targeted and of the circuitry involved is crucial in stereotactic functional neurosurgery. The present study was undertaken in the context of surgical treatment of motor disorders such as essential tremor (ET) and Parkinson's disease (PD) to precisely determine the course and three-dimensional stereotactic localisation of the cerebellothalamic and pallidothalamic tracts in the human brain. The course of the fibre tracts to the thalamus was traced in the subthalamic region using multiple staining procedures and their entrance into the thalamus determined according to our atlas of the human thalamus and basal ganglia [Morel (2007) Stereotactic atlas of the human thalamus and basal ganglia. Informa Healthcare Inc., New York]. Stereotactic three-dimensional coordinates were determined by sectioning thalamic and basal ganglia blocks parallel to stereotactic planes and, in two cases, by correlation with magnetic resonance images (MRI) from the same brains prior to sectioning. The major contributions of this study are to provide: (1) evidence that the bulks of the cerebellothalamic and pallidothalamic tracts are clearly separated up to their thalamic entrance, (2) stereotactic maps of the two tracts in the subthalamic region, (3) the possibility to discriminate between different subthalamic fibre tracts on the basis of immunohistochemical stainings, (4) correlations of histologically identified fibre tracts with high-resolution MRI, and (5) evaluation of the interindividual variability of the fibre systems in the subthalamic region. This study should provide an important basis for accurate stereotactic neurosurgical targeting of the subthalamic region in motor disorders such as PD and ET.