It is the Locus Coeruleus! Or… is it? : A proposition for analyses and reporting standards for structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging of the noradrenergic Locus Coeruleus

Yeo-Jin Yi, Falk Lüsebrink, Anne Maaß, Gabriel Ziegler, Renat Yakupov, Michael C. Kreißl, Matthew Betts, Oliver Speck, Emrah Düzel, Dorothea Hämmerer

The noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) is one of the protein pathology epicenters in neurodegenerative diseases. In contrast to PET (positron emission tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) offers the spatial resolution necessary to investigate the 3-4 mm wide and 1.5 cm long LC. However, standard data postprocessing is often too spatially imprecise to allow investigating the structure and function of the LC at the group level. Our analysis pipeline uses a combination of existing toolboxes (SPM12, ANTs, FSL, FreeSurfer), and is tailored towards achieving suitable spatial precision in the brainstem area. Its effectiveness is demonstrated using 2 datasets comprising both younger and older adults. We also suggest quality assessment procedures which allow to quantify the spatial precision obtained. Spatial deviations below 2.5 mm in the LC area are achieved, which is superior to current standard approaches. Relevant for ageing and clinical researchers interested in brainstem imaging, we provide a tool for more reliable analyses of structural and functional LC imaging data which can be also adapted for investigating other nuclei of the brainstem.

Neurobiol Aging. 129:137-148 (2023)


coregistrationfMRIlocus coeruleusMRIneuromelanin-sensitive imagingnormalization
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