Connectivity-based segmentation of the striatum in Huntington's disease: vulnerability of motor pathways

Neurobiol Dis. 2011 Jun;42(3):475-81. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2011.02.010. Epub 2011 Mar 5.


The striatum, the primary site of degeneration in Huntington's disease (HD), connects to the cerebral cortex via topographically organized circuits subserving unique motor, associative and limbic functions. Currently, it is not known whether all cortico-striatal circuits are equally affected in HD. We aimed to study the selective vulnerability of individual cortico-striatal circuits within the striatum in HD, and hypothesized that motor cortico-striatal pathways would be most affected, consistent with HD being a primarily motor disorder. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) tractography was used to identify connections between the striatum and seven major cortical regions in 12 HD patients and 14 matched controls. The striatum of both groups was parcellated into subregions based on connectivity with the cerebral cortex. Volumetric and DTI microstructural measures of Fractional Anisotropy (FA) and Mean Diffusivity (MD) were obtained within each subregion and compared statistically between groups. Tractography demonstrated the topographic organization of cortical connections in the striatum of both controls and HD patients. In HD patients, the greatest difference from controls in volume, FA and MD was observed in M1 and S1 subregions of the caudate and putamen. Motor symptoms correlated with volume and MD in sensorimotor striatal subregions, suggesting that sensorimotor striatal degeneration is closely related to motor dysfunction. DTI tractography provides a novel approach to sensitively examine circuit-specific abnormalities in HD and has identified that the motor cortico-striatal circuit is selectively vulnerable in HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Efferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size