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High-Definition Fiber Tractography of the Human Brain: Neuroanatomical Validation and Neurosurgical Applications

Neurosurgery 71:2:430–453, 2012. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3182592faa

Fernandez-Miranda, Juan C. MD; Pathak, Sudhir MS, MSc; Engh, Johnathan MD; Jarbo, Kevin BS; Verstynen, Timothy PhD; Yeh, Fang-Cheng MD, PhD; Wang, Yibao MD; Mintz, Arlan MD; Boada, Fernando MD, PhD; Schneider, Walter PhD; Friedlander, Robert MD

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BACKGROUND: High-definition fiber tracking (HDFT) is a novel combination of processing, reconstruction, and tractography methods that can track white matter fibers from cortex, through complex fiber crossings, to cortical and subcortical targets with subvoxel resolution.

OBJECTIVE: To perform neuroanatomical validation of HDFT and to investigate its neurosurgical applications.

METHODS: Six neurologically healthy adults and 36 patients with brain lesions were studied. Diffusion spectrum imaging data were reconstructed with a Generalized Q-Ball Imaging approach. Fiber dissection studies were performed in 20 human brains, and selected dissection results were compared with tractography.

RESULTS: HDFT provides accurate replication of known neuroanatomical features such as the gyral and sulcal folding patterns, the characteristic shape of the claustrum, the segmentation of the thalamic nuclei, the decussation of the superior cerebellar peduncle, the multiple fiber crossing at the centrum semiovale, the complex angulation of the optic radiations, the terminal arborization of the arcuate tract, and the cortical segmentation of the dorsal Broca area. From a clinical perspective, we show that HDFT provides accurate structural connectivity studies in patients with intracerebral lesions, allowing qualitative and quantitative white matter damage assessment, aiding in understanding lesional patterns of white matter structural injury, and facilitating innovative neurosurgical applications. High-grade gliomas produce significant disruption of fibers, and low-grade gliomas cause fiber displacement. Cavernomas cause both displacement and disruption of fibers.

CONCLUSION: Our HDFT approach provides an accurate reconstruction of white matter fiber tracts with unprecedented detail in both the normal and pathological human brain. Further studies to validate the clinical findings are needed.

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