BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Talairach-based parcellation (TP) of human brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data has been used increasingly in clinical research to make regional measurements of brain structures in vivo. Recently, TP has been applied to pediatric research to elucidate the changes in regional brain volumes related to several neurological disorders. However, all freely available tools have been designed to parcellate adult brain MRI data. Parcellation of neonatal MRI data is very challenging owing to the lack of strong signal contrast, variability in signal intensity within tissues, and the small size and thus difficulty in identifying small structures used as landmarks for TP. Hence the authors designed and validated a new interactive tool to parcellate brain MRI data from newborns and young infants.
METHODS: The authors' tool was developed as part of a postprocessing pipeline, which includes registration of multichannel MR images, segmentation, and parcellation of the segmented data. The tool employs user-friendly interactive software to visualize and assign the anatomic landmarks required for parcellation, after which the planes and parcels are generated automatically by the algorithm. The authors then performed 3 sets of validation experiments to test the precision and reliability of their tool.
RESULTS: Validation experiments of intra-and interrater reliability on data obtained from newborn and 1-year-old children showed a very high sensitivity of >95% and specificity >99.9%. The authors also showed that rotating and reformatting the original MRI data results in a statistically significant difference in parcel volumes, demonstrating the importance of using a tool such as theirs that does not require realignment of the data prior to parcellation.
CONCLUSIONS: To the authors' knowledge, the presented approach is the first TP method that has been developed and validated specifically for neonatal brain MRI data. Their approach would also be valuable for the analysis of brain MRI data from older children and adults.