Study: Mapping the human corticoreticular pathway

Mapping the human corticoreticular pathway with multimodal delineation of the gigantocellular reticular nucleus and high-resolution diffusion tractography


The corticoreticular pathway (CRP) is a major motor tract that transmits cortical input to the reticular formation motor nuclei and may be an important mediator of motor recovery after central nervous system damage. However, its cortical origins, trajectory and laterality are incompletely understood in humans. This study aimed to map the human CRP and generate an average CRP template in standard MRI space. Following recently established guidelines, we manually delineated the primary reticular formation motor nucleus (gigantocellular reticular nucleus [GRN]) using several group-mean MRI contrasts from the Human Connectome Project (HCP). CRP tractography was then performed with HCP diffusion-weighted MRI data (N=1,065) by selecting diffusion streamlines that reached both the cortex and GRN. Corticospinal tract (CST) tractography was also performed for comparison. Results suggest that the human CRP has widespread origins, which overlap with the CST across most of the motor cortex and include additional exclusive inputs from the medial and anterior prefrontal cortices. The estimated CRP projected through the anterior and posterior limbs of the internal capsule before partially decussating in the midbrain tegmentum and converging bilaterally on the pontomedullary reticular formation. Thus, the CRP trajectory appears to partially overlap the CST, while being more distributed and anteromedial to the CST in the cerebrum before moving posterior to the CST in the brainstem. These findings have important implications for neurophysiologic testing, cortical stimulation and movement recovery after brain lesions. We expect that our GRN and tract maps will also facilitate future CRP research.

Journal of the Neurological Sciences - DOI: 10.1016/j.jns.2021.120091

  • Pierce Boyne
  • Mark DiFrancesco
  • Oluwole O Awosika
  • Brady Williamson
  • Jennifer Vannest
  • University of Cincinnati