Despite the extensive use of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) as a deep brain stimulation (DBS) target, unveiling the extensive functional connectivity of the nucleus, relating its structural connectivity to the stimulation-induced adverse effects, and thus optimizing the STN targeting still remain challenging. Mastering the 3D anatomy of the STN region should be the fundamental goal to achieve ideal surgical results, due to the deep-seated and obscure position of the nucleus, variable shape and relatively small size, oblique orientation, and extensive structural connectivity. In the present study, the authors aimed to delineate the 3D anatomy of the STN and unveil the complex relationship between the anatomical structures within the STN region using fiber dissection technique, 3D reconstructions of high-resolution MRI, and fiber tracking using diffusion tractography utilizing a generalized q-sampling imaging (GQI) model.
Fiber dissection was performed in 20 hemispheres and 3 cadaveric heads using the Klingler method. Fiber dissections of the brain were performed from all orientations in a stepwise manner to reveal the 3D anatomy of the STN. In addition, 3 brains were cut into 5-mm coronal, axial, and sagittal slices to show the sectional anatomy. GQI data were also used to elucidate the connections among hubs within the STN region.
The study correlated the results of STN fiber dissection with those of 3D MRI reconstruction and tractography using neuronavigation. A 3D terrain model of the subthalamic area encircling the STN was built to clarify its anatomical relations with the putamen, globus pallidus internus, globus pallidus externus, internal capsule, caudate nucleus laterally, substantia nigra inferiorly, zona incerta superiorly, and red nucleus medially. The authors also describe the relationship of the medial lemniscus, oculomotor nerve fibers, and the medial forebrain bundle with the STN using tractography with a 3D STN model.
This study examines the complex 3D anatomy of the STN and peri-subthalamic area. In comparison with previous clinical data on STN targeting, the results of this study promise further understanding of the structural connections of the STN, the exact location of the fiber compositions within the region, and clinical applications such as stimulation-induced adverse effects during DBS targeting.