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Cerebellum. 2012 Jun;11(2):314-24. doi: 10.1007/s12311-010-0194-5.

Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging of the human cerebellar nuclei.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Hufelandstrasse 55, Essen, Germany.


The present review focuses on recent developments in structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN), the main output structure of the cerebellum. The high iron content in the DCN allows for their visibility in T2*-weighted images. Spatial resolution has improved allowing the identification of DCN in individual cerebellar patients and healthy subjects. Based on findings in larger groups of healthy subjects, probabilistic MRI-based atlases of the deep cerebellar nuclei have been developed, which are important tools in human lesion and functional imaging studies. High iron content in the DCN, on the other hand, decreases the blood oxygenation level dependent-signal making functional imaging a difficult challenge. Compared to the vast amount of studies reporting activation of the cerebellar cortex, the number of studies demonstrating activation of the DCN is much less. Most studies report activation of the dentate nucleus. Dentate activations appear to be more reliable in more complex tasks for reasons currently unknown. As yet, few studies tried to show activations of functional subunits of the dentate nucleus. Increased signal-to-noise ratio and better spatial resolution using higher MR field strength together with recent progress in dentate normalization methods will allow identification of functional subunits and their interactions with the cerebellar cortex in future studies.

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