CORDIS - EU research results


Project description

Charting the human subcortex as if it were ‘terra incognita’

The subcortex comprises approximately one quarter of the human brain volume. Standard human brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) atlases contain only 7 % of subcortical grey matter structures. This low percentage is likely a consequence of the small size of subcortical nuclei and the large distance from the subcortex to the head coil. The EU-funded Atlas project will chart the human subcortex (as ‘terra incognita’) and create a tool to locate and visualise new targets for deep brain simulation (DBS). The project’s aim is to create probabilistic atlas maps for DBS surgery with unprecedented detail as well as a 3D app for educational purposes.


The human subcortex is a highly crowded brain area, which consists of hundreds of unique, small grey matter nuclei constituting approximately ¼ of total human brain volume. Importantly, only approximately 7% of these nuclei are currently accessible in standard human brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) atlases (Forstmann et al., 2016). This low percentage can have several imaging related causes, including the small size of subcortical nuclei as compared to the voxel size, which is particularly relevant when applying 1.5 or 3 Tesla (T) MRI. Additionally, the challenges posed by the large distance of the subcortex from the head coil may be a cause. In light of the vast amount of uncharted brain areas, one can also think of the human subcortex as ‘terra incognita’. The aim of this proposal is to chart ‘terra incognita’ to create a tool to identify and localize new targets for DBS.
Major efforts of my group have already been directed towards resolving at least part of the challenges of imaging the human subcortex through the development of ultra-high field resolution 7T magnetic resonance imaging (UHF-MRI) sequences tailored to image the subcortex. Within our project ‘Atlasing the human subcortex’, collaborations with world-leading companies in DBS technology such as Boston Scientific ( have been established. Here, we aim to extend these efforts by applying for funding for research personnel that will execute the manual segmentations and validation of new potentially more efficient target areas for DBS neurosurgery. These efforts will lead to creating probabilistic atlas maps for DBS surgery with unprecedented detail as well as a 3D app for educational purposes both in the clinical and basic neurosciences. These efforts will ultimately lead to commercial products that have already attracted attention of world-leading DBS companies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 150 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)