Connectivity-based parcellation of subcortical structures using diffusion tractography is now a common paradigm in neuroscience. These analyses often imply voxel-level specificity of connectivity, and the formation of compact, spatially coherent clusters is often taken as strong imaging-based evidence for anatomically distinct subnuclei in an individual. In this study, we demonstrate that internal structure in diffusion anisotropy is not necessary for a plausible parcellation to be obtained, by spatially permuting diffusion parameters within the thalami and repeating the parcellation. Moreover, we show that, in a winner-takes-all paradigm, most voxels receive the same label before and after this shuffling process-a finding that is stable across image acquisitions and tractography algorithms. We therefore suggest that such parcellations should be interpreted with caution.
Keywords: Connectivity; Diffusion; Magnetic resonance imaging; Parcellation; Tractography.
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