Individual variations of the human corticospinal tract and its hand-related motor fibers using diffusion MRI tractography

  • Kyriakos Dalamagkas
  • Magdalini Tsintou
  • Yogesh Rathi
  • Lauren J. O’Donnell
  • Ofer Pasternak
  • Xue Gong
  • Anne Zhu
  • Peter Savadjiev
  • George M. Papadimitriou
  • Marek Kubicki
  • Edward H. Yeterian
  • Nikos MakrisEmail author


The corticospinal tract (CST) is one of the most well studied tracts in human neuroanatomy. Its clinical significance can be demonstrated in many notable traumatic conditions and diseases such as stroke, spinal cord injury (SCI) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With the advent of diffusion MRI and tractography the computational representation of the human CST in a 3D model became available. However, the representation of the entire CST and, specifically, the hand motor area has remained elusive. In this paper we propose a novel method, using manually drawn ROIs based on robustly identifiable neuroanatomic structures to delineate the entire CST and isolate its hand motor representation as well as to estimate their variability and generate a database of their volume, length and biophysical parameters. Using 37 healthy human subjects we performed a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the CST and the hand-related motor fiber tracts (HMFTs). Finally, we have created variability heat maps from 37 subjects for both the aforementioned tracts, which could be utilized as a reference for future studies with clinical focus to explore neuropathology in both trauma and disease states.


Two-tensor tractography Diffusion tensor imaging Corticospinal tract Neural repair Quantification 



corticospinal tract


hand-related motor fiber tract(s)


pyramidal tract


Brodmann area


diffusion magnetic resonance imaging


diffusion tensor imaging


high angular resolution diffusion imaging


internal capsule


spinal cord injury


traumatic brain injury


multiple sclerosis


amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


arcuate fascicle


superior longitudinal fascicle


corpus callosum


Human Connectome Project


deterministic tractography - unscented Kalman filter deterministic tractography


fractional anisotropy


axial diffusivity


radial diffusivity


standard deviation

WU-Minn HCP consortium

Washington University-University of Minnesota and Oxford University Human Connectome Project consortium


regions of interest


White Matter Query Language


anterior commissure


Symmetry index


Washington University


Montreal Neurological Institute


congenital bilateral perisylvian syndrome


occipitofrontal fascicle



We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for providing useful comments on the manuscript. We would also like to thank Prof. Myron Spector for fruitful discussions and for his support.


K.D. was partially supported by the Foundation for Education and European Culture (IPEP). M.T. was supported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Onassis Foundation. E.Y. was supported by Colby College Research Fund 01 2836. NIH P41 EB015902. P.S. was supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, grant number 22591 from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. N.M. was supported by RO1AG042512 (National Institute of Aging & National Institute of Mental Health), RO1MH112748 (National Institute of Mental Health), RO1MH111917 (National Institute of Mental Health), R21AT008865 (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health), R21DA042271 (National Institute of Drug Abuse), and K24MH116366 (National Institute of Mental Health).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyriakos Dalamagkas
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Magdalini Tsintou
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  • Yogesh Rathi
    • 2
  • Lauren J. O’Donnell
    • 2
  • Ofer Pasternak
    • 2
    • 7
  • Xue Gong
  • Anne Zhu
  • Peter Savadjiev
    • 2
    • 7
  • George M. Papadimitriou
    • 6
  • Marek Kubicki
    • 2
    • 6
    • 7
  • Edward H. Yeterian
    • 8
  • Nikos Makris
    • 2
    • 6
    • 9
    Email author
  1. 1.Surgical Planning Laboratory, Brigham and Women′s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham and Women′s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationThe University of Texas Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA
  4. 4.TIRR Memorial Hermann Research CenterTIRR Memorial Hermann HospitalHoustonUSA
  5. 5.UCL Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, Center for Nanotechnology & Regenerative MedicineUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology Services, Center for Neural Systems Investigations, Center for Morphometric Analysis, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  7. 7.Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women′s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyColby CollegeWatervilleUSA
  9. 9.Department of Anatomy & NeurobiologyBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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