Objective: This review provides a brief account of the clinically relevant functional neuroanatomy of the thalamus, before considering the utility of various modalities utilised to image the thalamus and technical challenges therein, and going on to provide an overview of studies utilising structural imaging techniques to map thalamic morphology in the spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted for peer-reviewed studies involving structural neuroimaging modalities investigating the morphology (shape and/ or size) of the thalamus in the spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders.

Results: Whilst the precise role of the thalamus in the healthy brain remains unclear, there is a large body of knowledge accumulating which defines more precisely its functional connectivity within the connectome, and a burgeoning literature implicating its involvement in neurodegenerative disorders. It is proposed that correlation of clinical features with thalamic morphology (as a component of a quantifiable subcortical connectome) will provide a better understanding of neuropsychiatric dysfunction in various neurodegenerative disorders, potentially yielding clinically useful endophenotypes and disease biomarkers.

Conclusions: Thalamic biomarkers in the neurodegenerative disorders have great potential to provide clinically meaningful knowledge regarding not only disease onset and progression, but may yield targets of and perhaps a way of gauging response to future disease-modifying modalities.


biomarker, dementia, neurodegenerative disorder, neuroimaging, thalamus

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