Human striatum is involved in the regulation of movement, reinforcement, learning, reward, cognitive functioning, and addiction. Previous classical volumetric MRI studies have implicated age-, disease- and medication-related changes in striatal structures. Yet, no studies to date have addressed the effects of these factors on the shape variability and local structural alterations in the striatum. The local alterations may provide meaningful additional information in the context of functional neuroanatomy and brain connectivity. We developed image analysis methodology for the measurement of the volume and local shape variability of the human striatum. The method was applied in a group of 43 healthy controls to study the effects of age and gender on striatal shape variability. In the volume analysis, the volume of the striatum was normalized using the volume of the whole brain. In the local shape analysis, the deviations from a mean surface were studied for each surface point using high-dimensional mapping. Also, discriminant functions were constructed from a statistical shape model. The accuracy and reproducibility of the methods used were evaluated. The results confirmed that the volume of the striatum decreases as a function of age. However, the volume decrease was not uniform and age-related shape differences were observed in several subregions of the human striatum whereas no local gender differences were seen. Examination of the variability of striatal shape in the healthy population will pave the way for applying this method in clinical settings. This method will be particularly useful for investigating neuropsychiatric disorders that are associated with subtle morphological alterations of the brain, such as schizophrenia.
- Shape analysis
- Volume analysis