In vivo functional connectome of human brainstem nuclei of the ascending arousal, autonomic, and motor systems by high spatial resolution 7-Tesla fMRI

MAGMA. 2016 Jun;29(3):451-62. doi: 10.1007/s10334-016-0546-3. Epub 2016 Apr 28.


Objective: Our aim was to map the in vivo human functional connectivity of several brainstem nuclei with the rest of the brain by using seed-based correlation of ultra-high magnetic field functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data.

Materials and methods: We used the recently developed template of 11 brainstem nuclei derived from multi-contrast structural MRI at 7 Tesla as seed regions to determine their connectivity to the rest of the brain. To achieve this, we used the increased contrast-to-noise ratio of 7-Tesla fMRI compared with 3 Tesla and time-efficient simultaneous multi-slice imaging to cover the brain with high spatial resolution (1.1-mm isotropic nominal resolution) while maintaining a short repetition time (2.5 s).

Results: The delineated Pearson's correlation-based functional connectivity diagrams (connectomes) of 11 brainstem nuclei of the ascending arousal, motor, and autonomic systems from 12 controls are presented and discussed in the context of existing histology and animal work.

Conclusion: Considering that the investigated brainstem nuclei play a crucial role in several vital functions, the delineated preliminary connectomes might prove useful for future in vivo research and clinical studies of human brainstem function and pathology, including disorders of consciousness, sleep disorders, autonomic disorders, Parkinson's disease, and other motor disorders.

Keywords: 7 Tesla; Functional connectome; High spatial resolution; Human brainstem nuclei; In vivo; Simultaneous multi-slice imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Arousal
  • Autonomic Nervous System / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Brain Stem / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Connectome*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Probability
  • Young Adult