Confirmation of functional zones within the human subthalamic nucleus: patterns of connectivity and sub-parcellation using diffusion weighted imaging

Neuroimage. 2012 Mar;60(1):83-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.11.082. Epub 2011 Dec 8.


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is a small, glutamatergic nucleus situated in the diencephalon. A critical component of normal motor function, it has become a key target for deep brain stimulation in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Animal studies have demonstrated the existence of three functional sub-zones but these have never been shown conclusively in humans. In this work, a data driven method with diffusion weighted imaging demonstrated that three distinct clusters exist within the human STN based on brain connectivity profiles. The STN was successfully sub-parcellated into these regions, demonstrating good correspondence with that described in the animal literature. The local connectivity of each sub-region supported the hypothesis of bilateral limbic, associative and motor regions occupying the anterior, mid and posterior portions of the nucleus respectively. This study is the first to achieve in-vivo, non-invasive anatomical parcellation of the human STN into three anatomical zones within normal diagnostic scan times, which has important future implications for deep brain stimulation surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / anatomy & histology*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology*