Atlasing location, asymmetry and inter-subject variability of white matter tracts in the human brain with MR diffusion tractography

Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 1;54(1):49-59. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.07.055. Epub 2010 Aug 2.


The purpose of this study is to create a white matter atlas of the human brain using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography and to describe the constant and variable features of the major pathways. DTI was acquired from 40 healthy right-handed adults and reconstructed tracts mapped within a common reference space (MNI). Group effect maps of each tract defined constant anatomical features while overlap maps were generated to study inter-subject variability and to compare DTI derived anatomy with a histological atlas. Two patients were studied to assess the localizing validity of the atlas. The DTI-derived maps are overall consistent with a previously published histological atlas. A statistically significant leftward asymmetry was found for the volume and number of streamlines of the cortico-spinal tract and the direct connections between Broca's and Wernicke's territories (long segment). A statistically significant rightward asymmetry was found for the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus and the fronto-parietal connections (anterior segment) of the arcuate fasciculus. Furthermore, males showed a left lateralization of the fronto-temporal segment of the arcuate fasciculus (long segment), while females had a more bilateral distribution. In two patients with brain lesions, DTI was acquired and tractography used to show that the tracts affected by the lesions were correctly identified by the atlas. This study suggests that DTI-derived maps can be used together with a previous histological atlas to establish the relationship of focal lesions with nearby tracts and improve clinico-anatomical correlation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anisotropy
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / pathology
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / pathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Postmortem Changes
  • Young Adult