Ultra-High Field MRI Post Mortem Structural Connectivity of the Human Subthalamic Nucleus, Substantia Nigra, and Globus Pallidus

Birgit Plantinga*, Alard Roebroeck, Valentin G. Kemper, Kamil Uludag, Maartje Melse, Juergen Mai, Mark Kuijf, Andreas Herrler, Ali Jahanshahi, Bart M. ter Haar Romeny, Yasin Temel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Web of Science)
415 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: The subthalamic nucleus, substantia nigra, and globus pallidus, three nuclei of the human basal ganglia, play an important role in motor, associative, and limbic processing. The network of the basal ganglia is generally characterized by a direct, indirect, and hyperdirect pathway. This study aims to investigate the mesoscopic nature of these connections between the subthalamic nucleus, substantia nigra, and globus pallidus and their surrounding structures. Methods: A human post mortem brain specimen including the substantia nigra, subthalamic nucleus, and globus pallidus was scanned on a 7 T MRI scanner. High resolution diffusion weighted images were used to reconstruct the fibers intersecting the substantia nigra, subthalamic nucleus, and globus pallidus. The course and density of these tracks was analyzed. Results: Most of the commonly established projections of the subthalamic nucleus, substantia nigra, and globus pallidus were successfully reconstructed. However, some of the reconstructed fiber tracks such as the connections of the substantia nigra pars compacta to the other included nuclei and the connections with the anterior commissure have not been shown previously. In addition, the quantitative tractography approach showed a typical degree of connectivity previously not documented. An example is the relatively larger projections of the subthalamic nucleus to the substantia nigra pars reticulata when compared to the projections to the globus pallidus internus. Discussion: This study shows that ultra-high field post mortem tractography allows for detailed 3D reconstruction of the projections of deep brain structures in humans. Although the results should be interpreted carefully, the newly identified connections contribute to our understanding of the basal ganglia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number066
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neuroanatomy
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2016


  • subthalamic nucleus
  • substantia nigra
  • globus pallidus
  • post mortem
  • ultra-high field MRI
  • tractography

Cite this