The role of the pallidothalamic fibre tracts in deep brain stimulation for dystonia: A diffusion MRI tractography study

Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Mar;38(3):1224-1232. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23450. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


Background: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) of the Globus pallidus internus (GPi) is gold standard treatment in medically refractory dystonia. Recent evidence indicates that stimulation effects are also due to axonal modulation and affection of a fibre network. For the GPi, the pallidothalamic tracts are known to be the major motor efferent pathways. The aim of this study is to explore the anatomic vicinity of these tracts and DBS electrodes in dystonia applying diffusion tractography.

Methods: Diffusion MRI was acquired in ten patients presenting for DBS for dystonia. We applied both a conventionally used probabilistic tractography algorithm (FSL) as well as a probabilistic streamline tracking approach, based on constrained spherical deconvolution and particle filtering with anatomic priors, to the datasets. DBS electrodes were coregistered to the diffusion datasets.

Results: We were able to delineate the pallidothalamic tracts in all patients. Using the streamline approach, we were able to distinguish between the two sub-components of the tracts, the ansa lenticularis and the fasciculus lenticularis. Clinically efficient DBS electrodes displayed a close anatomic vicinity pathway of the pallidothalamic tracts, and their course was consistent with previous tracer labelling studies. Although we present only anatomic data, we interpret these findings as evidence of the possible involvement of fibre tracts to the clinical effect in DBS. Electrophysiological intraoperative recordings would be needed to complement our findings. In the future, a clear and individual delineation of the pallidothalamic tracts could optimize the stereotactic process of optimal electrode localization. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1224-1232, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: deep brain stimulation; diffusion MRI; movement disorders; neural networks.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Brain Mapping
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Dystonia / diagnostic imaging
  • Dystonia / therapy*
  • Female
  • Globus Pallidus / diagnostic imaging
  • Globus Pallidus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamus / physiology*