Background and objectives: Functional deregulation of dopaminergic midbrain regions is a core feature of schizophrenia pathophysiology. Anatomical research on primates suggests that these regions may be subdivided into distinct, topographically organized functional territories according to their connectivity to the striatum. The aim of the present work was the reconstruction of dopaminergic midbrain subregions in healthy subjects and schizophrenic patients and the evaluation of their structural connectivity profiles. Materials and Methods: A hypothesis-driven connectivity-based parcellation derived from diffusion tractography was applied on 24 healthy subjects and 30 schizophrenic patients to identify distinct territories within the human dopaminergic midbrain in vivo and non-invasively. Results: We identified a tripartite subdivision of dopaminergic midbrain, including limbic, prefrontal and sensorimotor territories. No significant differences in structural features or connectivity were found between subjects and patients. Conclusions: The parcellation scheme proposed herein may help to achieve detailed characterization of structural and functional anomalies of the dopaminergic midbrain in schizophrenic patients.
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