The Red Nucleus (RN) is a large nucleus located in the ventral midbrain: it is subdivided into a small caudal magnocellular part (mRN) and a large rostral parvocellular part (pRN). These distinct structural regions are part of functionally different networks and show distinctive connectivity features: the mRN is connected to the interposed nucleus, whilst the pRN is mainly connected to dentate nucleus, cortex and inferior olivary complex. Despite functional neuroimaging studies suggest RN involvement in complex motor and higher order functions, the pRN and mRN cannot be distinguished using conventional MRI. Herein, we employ high-quality structural and diffusion MRI data of 100 individuals from the Human Connectome Project repository and constrained spherical deconvolution tractography to perform connectivity-based segmentation of the human RN. In particular, we tracked connections of RN with the inferior olivary complex, the interposed nucleus, the dentate nucleus and the cerebral cortex. We found that the RN can be subdivided according to its connectivity into two clusters: a large ventrolateral one, mainly connected with the cerebral cortex and the inferior olivary complex, and a smaller dorsomedial one, mainly connected with the interposed nucleus. This structural topography strongly reflects the connectivity patterns of pRN and mRN respectively. Structural connectivity-based segmentation could represent a useful tool for the identification of distinct subregions of the human red nucleus on 3T MRI thus allowing a better evaluation of this subcortical structure in healthy and pathological conditions.
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