Tractography of the Cerebellar Peduncles in Second- and Third-Trimester Fetuses

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2021 Jan;42(1):194-200. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A6869.


Background and purpose: Little is known about microstructural development of cerebellar white matter in vivo. This study aimed to investigate developmental changes of the cerebellar peduncles in second- and third-trimester healthy fetuses using motion-corrected DTI and tractography.

Materials and methods: 3T data of 81 healthy fetuses were reviewed. Structural imaging consisted of multiplanar T2-single-shot sequences; DTI consisted of a series of 12-direction diffusion. A robust motion-tracked section-to-volume registration algorithm reconstructed images. ROI-based deterministic tractography was performed using anatomic landmarks described in postnatal tractography. Asymmetry was evaluated qualitatively with a perceived difference of >25% between sides. Linear regression evaluated gestational age as a predictor of tract volume, ADC, and fractional anisotropy.

Results: Twenty-four cases were excluded due to low-quality reconstructions. Fifty-eight fetuses with a median gestational age of 30.6 weeks (interquartile range, 7 weeks) were analyzed. The superior cerebellar peduncle was identified in 39 subjects (69%), and it was symmetric in 15 (38%). The middle cerebellar peduncle was identified in all subjects and appeared symmetric; in 13 subjects (22%), two distinct subcomponents were identified. The inferior cerebellar peduncle was not found in any subject. There was a significant increase in volume for the superior cerebellar peduncle and middle cerebellar peduncle (both, P < .05), an increase in fractional anisotropy (both, P < .001), and a decrease in ADC (both, P < .001) with gestational age. The middle cerebellar peduncle had higher volume (P < .001) and fractional anisotropy (P = .002) and lower ADC (P < .001) than the superior cerebellar peduncle after controlling for gestational age.

Conclusions: A robust motion-tracked section-to-volume registration algorithm enabled deterministic tractography of the superior cerebellar peduncle and middle cerebellar peduncle in vivo and allowed characterization of developmental changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Cerebellum / embryology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Male
  • Neurogenesis* / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Retrospective Studies