A method for pre-operative single-subject thalamic segmentation based on probabilistic tractography for essential tremor deep brain stimulation

Neuroradiology. 2018 Mar;60(3):303-309. doi: 10.1007/s00234-017-1972-2. Epub 2018 Jan 6.


Purpose: Deep brain stimulation is a common treatment for medication-refractory essential tremor. Current coordinate-based targeting methods result in variable outcomes due to variation in thalamic structure and the optimal patient-specific functional location. The purpose of this study was to compare the coordinate-based pre-operative targets to patient-specific thalamic segmentation utilizing a probabilistic tractography methodology.

Methods: Using available diffusion MRI of 32 subjects from the Human Connectome Project database, probabilistic tractography was performed. Each thalamic voxel was coded based on one of six predefined cortical targets. The segmentation results were analyzed and compared to a 2-mm spherical target centered at the coordinate-based location of the ventral intermediate thalamic nucleus.

Results: The traditional coordinate-based target had maximal overlap with the junction of the region most connected to primary motor cortex (M1) (36.6 ± 25.7% of voxels on left; 58.1 ± 28.5% on right) and the area connected to the supplementary motor area/premotor cortex (SMA/PMC) (44.9 ± 21.7% of voxels on left; 28.9 ± 22.2% on right). There was a within-subject coefficient of variation from right-to-left of 69.4 and 63.1% in the volume of overlap with the SMA/PMC and M1 regions, respectively.

Conclusion: Thalamic segmentation based on structural connectivity measures is a promising technique that may enhance traditional targeting methods by generating reproducible, patient-specific pre-operative functional targets. Our results highlight the problematic intra- and inter-subject variability of indirect, coordinate-based targets. Future prospective clinical studies will be needed to validate this targeting methodology in essential tremor patients.

Keywords: Connectomics; Deep brain stimulation; Diffusion tensor imaging; Essential tremor; Ventral thalamic nuclei.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Essential Tremor / diagnostic imaging*
  • Essential Tremor / physiopathology
  • Essential Tremor / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Preoperative Care
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome