Tractographic and Microstructural Analysis of the Dentato-Rubro-Thalamo-Cortical Tracts in Children Using Diffusion MRI

Cereb Cortex. 2021 Mar 31;31(5):2595-2609. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa377.


The dentato-rubro-thalamo-cortical tract (DRTC) is the main outflow pathway of the cerebellum, contributing to a finely balanced corticocerebellar loop involved in cognitive and sensorimotor functions. Damage to the DRTC has been implicated in cerebellar mutism syndrome seen in up to 25% of children after cerebellar tumor resection. Multi-shell diffusion MRI (dMRI) combined with quantitative constrained spherical deconvolution tractography and multi-compartment spherical mean technique modeling was used to explore the frontocerebellar connections and microstructural signature of the DRTC in 30 healthy children. The highest density of DRTC connections were to the precentral (M1) and superior frontal gyri (F1), and from cerebellar lobules I-IV and IX. The first evidence of a topographic organization of anterograde projections to the frontal cortex at the level of the superior cerebellar peduncle (SCP) is demonstrated, with streamlines terminating in F1 lying dorsomedially in the SCP compared to those terminating in M1. The orientation dispersion entropy of DRTC regions appears to exhibit greater contrast than that shown by fractional anisotropy. Analysis of a separate reproducibility cohort demonstrates good consistency in the dMRI metrics described. These novel anatomical insights into this well-studied pathway may prove to be of clinical relevance in the surgical resection of cerebellar tumors.

Keywords: cerebellar mutism syndrome; constrained spherical deconvolution; dentato-rubro-thalamo-cortical tract; spherical mean technique; tractography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebellar Diseases
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Child
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Mutism
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Red Nucleus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult