Structural assessment of thalamus morphology in brain disorders: A review and recommendation of thalamic nucleus segmentation and shape analysis

Jikke T. Boelens Keun, Eva M. van Heese, Max A. Laansma, Cees J. Weeland, Niels T. de Joode, Odile A. van den Heuvel, Jari K. Gool, Selina Kasprzak, Joanna K. Bright, Chris Vriend, Ysbrand D. van der Werf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The thalamus is a central brain structure crucially involved in cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor functions and is often reported to be involved in the pathophysiology of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The functional subdivision of the thalamus warrants morphological investigation on the level of individual subnuclei. In addition to volumetric measures, the investigation of other morphological features may give additional insights into thalamic morphology. For instance, shape features offer a higher spatial resolution by revealing small, regional differences that are left undetected in volumetric analyses. In this review, we discuss the benefits and limitations of recent advances in neuroimaging techniques to investigate thalamic morphology in vivo, leading to our proposed methodology. This methodology consists of available pipelines for volume and shape analysis, focussing on the morphological features of volume, thickness, and surface area. We demonstrate this combined approach in a Parkinson's disease cohort to illustrate their complementarity. Considering our findings, we recommend a combined methodology as it allows for more sensitive investigation of thalamic morphology in clinical populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-478
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date26 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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