Structure of the fetal brain: What we are learning from diffusion tensor imaging

Hao Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Human brain anatomy is extraordinarily complex, and yet, its origin is a simple tubular structure. It is characterized by dramatic structural changes during fetal development. Revealing detailed anatomy at different stages of human fetal brain development not only aids in understanding this highly ordered process but also provides clues to detect abnormalities caused by genetic or environmental factors. However, anatomical studies of human brain development during this period are surprisingly scarce, and histology-based atlases have become available only recently. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a recently developed technology of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is capable of noninvasively delineating macroscopic anatomical components with high contrast and revealing structures at the microscopic level. In this article, the fetal brain white matter is explored using contrasts from DTI-derived images and axonal reconstruction from DTI tractography. The highly organized structures in the cerebral layer have been revealed with primary direction of diffusion tensors. Complementary to the histology, the DTI of the fetal brain provides a valuable resource to understand the structural development of the entire brain. The resultant database will provide reference standards for diagnostic radiology of premature newborns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-649
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • DTI
  • development
  • fetal brain
  • neonate
  • premature
  • structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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