Current neuroimaging investigation of the white matter typically focuses on measurements derived from diffusion tensor imaging, such as fractional anisotropy (FA). In contrast, imaging studies of the gray matter oftentimes focus on morphological features such as cortical thickness, folding and surface curvature. As a result, it is not clear how to combine findings from these two types of approaches in order to obtain a consistent picture of morphological changes in both gray and white matter. In this paper, we propose a joint investigation of gray and white matter morphology by combining geometrical information from white and the gray matter. To achieve this, we first introduce a novel method for computing multi-scale white matter tract geometry. Its formulation is based on the differential geometry of curve sets and is easily incorporated into a continuous scale-space framework. We then incorporate this method into a novel framework for "fusing" white and gray matter geometrical information. Given a set of fiber tracts originating in a particular cortical region, the key idea is to compute two scalar fields that represent geometrical characteristics of the white matter and of the surface of the cortical region. A quantitative marker is created by combining the distributions of these scalar values using Mutual Information. This marker can be then used in the study of normal and pathological brain structure and development. We apply this framework to a study on autism spectrum disorder in children. Our preliminary results support the view that autism may be characterized by early brain overgrowth, followed by reduced or arrested growth (Courchesne, 2004).
Magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) is often used to estimate the concentration of several brain metabolites. Abnormalities in these concentrations can indicate specific pathology, which can be quite useful in understanding the disease mechanism underlying those changes. Due to higher concentration, metabolites such as N-acetylaspartate (NAA), Creatine (Cr) and Choline (Cho) can be readily estimated using standard Fourier transform techniques. However, metabolites such as Glutamate (Glu) and Glutamine (Gln) occur in significantly lower concentrations and their resonance peaks are very close to each other making it difficult to accurately estimate their concentrations (separately). In this work, we propose to use the theory of 'Spectral Zooming' or high-resolution spectral analysis to separate the Glutamate and Glutamine peaks and accurately estimate their concentrations. The method works by estimating a unique power spectral density, which corresponds to the maximum entropy solution of a zero-mean stationary Gaussian process. We demonstrate our estimation technique on several physical phantom data sets as well as on in-vivo brain spectroscopic imaging data. The proposed technique is quite general and can be used to estimate the concentration of any other metabolite of interest.
In traditional diffusion MRI, short pulsed field gradients (PFG) are used for the diffusion encoding. The standard Stejskal-Tanner sequence uses one single pair of such gradients, known as single-PFG (sPFG). In this work we describe how trajectories in q-space can be used for diffusion encoding. We discuss how such encoding enables the extension of the well-known scalar b-value to a tensor-valued entity we call the diffusion measurement tensor. The new measurements contain information about higher order diffusion propagator covariances not present in sPFG. As an example analysis, we use this new information to estimate a Gaussian distribution over diffusion tensors in each voxel, described by its mean (a diffusion tensor) and its covariance (a 4th order tensor).
For accurate estimation of the ensemble average diffusion propagator (EAP), traditional multi-shell diffusion imaging (MSDI) approaches require acquisition of diffusion signals for a range of b-values. However, this makes the acquisition time too long for several types of patients, making it difficult to use in a clinical setting. In this work, we propose a new method for the reconstruction of diffusion signals in the entire q-space from highly undersampled sets of MSDI data, thus reducing the scan time significantly. In particular, to sparsely represent the diffusion signal over multiple q-shells, we propose a novel extension to the framework of spherical ridgelets by accurately modeling the monotonically decreasing radial component of the diffusion signal. Further, we enforce the reconstructed signal to have smooth spatial regularity in the brain, by minimizing the total variation (TV) norm. We combine these requirements into a novel cost function and derive an optimal solution using the Alternating Directions Method of Multipliers (ADMM) algorithm. We use a physical phantom data set with known fiber crossing angle of 45° to determine the optimal number of measurements (gradient directions and b-values) needed for accurate signal recovery. We compare our technique with a state-of-the-art sparse reconstruction method (i.e., the SHORE method of Cheng et al. (2010)) in terms of angular error in estimating the crossing angle, incorrect number of peaks detected, normalized mean squared error in signal recovery as well as error in estimating the return-to-origin probability (RTOP). Finally, we also demonstrate the behavior of the proposed technique on human in vivo data sets. Based on these experiments, we conclude that using the proposed algorithm, at least 60 measurements (spread over three b-value shells) are needed for proper recovery of MSDI data in the entire q-space.
We report on a pilot study of dynamic lung electrical impedance tomography (EIT) at the University of Manchester. Low-noise EIT data at 100 frames per second were obtained from healthy male subjects during controlled breathing, followed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) subsequently used for spatial validation of the EIT reconstruction. The torso surface in the MR image and electrode positions obtained using MRI fiducial markers informed the construction of a 3D finite element model extruded along the caudal-distal axis of the subject. Small changes in the boundary that occur during respiration were accounted for by incorporating the sensitivity with respect to boundary shape into a robust temporal difference reconstruction algorithm. EIT and MRI images were co-registered using the open source medical imaging software, 3D Slicer. A quantitative comparison of quality of different EIT reconstructions was achieved through calculation of the mutual information with a lung-segmented MR image. EIT reconstructions using a linear shape correction algorithm reduced boundary image artefacts, yielding better contrast of the lungs, and had 10% greater mutual information compared with a standard linear EIT reconstruction.
Guiding diffusion tract-based anatomy by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we aim to investigate the relationship between structural connectivity and functional activity in the human brain. To this purpose, we introduced a novel groupwise fMRI-guided tractographic approach, that was applied on a population ranging between prodromic and moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The study comprised of 15 subjects affected by amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), 14 diagnosed with AD and 14 elderly healthy adults who were used as controls. By creating representative (ensemble) functionally guided tracts within each group of participants, our methodology highlighted the white matter fiber connections involved in verbal fluency functions for a specific population, and hypothesized on brain compensation mechanisms that potentially counteract or reduce cognitive impairment symptoms in prodromic AD. Our hope is that this fMRI-guided tractographic approach could have potential impact in various clinical studies, while investigating white/gray matter connectivity, in both health and disease.
Model-based segmentation methods have the advantage of incorporating a priori shape information into the segmentation process but suffer from the drawback that the model must be initialized sufficiently close to the target. We propose a novel approach for initializing an active shape model (ASM) and apply it to 3D lung segmentation in CT scans. Our method constructs an atlas consisting of a set of representative lung features and an average lung shape. The ASM pose parameters are found by transforming the average lung shape based on an affine transform computed from matching features between the new image and representative lung features. Our evaluation on a diverse set of 190 images showed an average dice coefficient of 0.746 ± 0.068 for initialization and 0.974 ± 0.017 for subsequent segmentation, based on an independent reference standard. The mean absolute surface distance error was 0.948 ± 1.537 mm. The initialization as well as segmentation results showed a statistically significant improvement compared to four other approaches. The proposed initialization method can be generalized to other applications employing ASM-based segmentation.
We propose and demonstrate an inference algorithm for the automatic segmentation of cerebrovascular pathologies in clinical MR images of the brain. Identifying and differentiating pathologies is important for understanding the underlying mechanisms and clinical outcomes of cerebral ischemia. Manual delineation of separate pathologies is infeasible in large studies of stroke that include thousands of patients. Unlike normal brain tissues and structures, the location and shape of the lesions vary across patients, presenting serious challenges for prior-driven segmentation. Our generative model captures spatial patterns and intensity properties associated with different cerebrovascular pathologies in stroke patients. We demonstrate the resulting segmentation algorithm on clinical images of a stroke patient cohort.
In this paper, we use Spherical Topic Models to discover the latent structure of lung disease. This method can be widely employed when a measurement for each subject is provided as a normalized histogram of relevant features. In this paper, the resulting descriptors are used as phenotypes to identify genetic markers associated with the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Features extracted from images capture the heterogeneity of the disease and therefore promise to improve detection of relevant genetic variants in Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). Our generative model is based on normalized histograms of image intensity of each subject and it can be readily extended to other forms of features as long as they are provided as normalized histograms. The resulting algorithm represents the intensity distribution as a combination of meaningful latent factors and mixing co-efficients that can be used for genetic association analysis. This approach is motivated by a clinical hypothesis that COPD symptoms are caused by multiple coexisting disease processes. Our experiments show that the new features enhance the previously detected signal on chromosome 15 with respect to standard respiratory and imaging measurements.
Karl-Heinz Nenning, Julia Furtner, Barbara Kiesel, Ernst Schwartz, Thomas Roetzer, Nikolaus Fortelny, Christoph Bock, Anna Grisold, Martha Marko, Fritz Leutmezer, Hesheng Liu, Polina Golland, Sophia Stoecklein, Johannes A Hainfellner, Gregor Kasprian, Daniela Prayer, Christine Marosi, Georg Widhalm, Adelheid Woehrer, and Georg Langs. 10/2020. “Distributed Changes of the Functional Connectome in Patients with Glioblastoma.” Sci Rep, 10, 1, Pp. 18312.Abstract
Glioblastoma might have widespread effects on the neural organization and cognitive function, and even focal lesions may be associated with distributed functional alterations. However, functional changes do not necessarily follow obvious anatomical patterns and the current understanding of this interrelation is limited. In this study, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate changes in global functional connectivity patterns in 15 patients with glioblastoma. For six patients we followed longitudinal trajectories of their functional connectome and structural tumour evolution using bi-monthly follow-up scans throughout treatment and disease progression. In all patients, unilateral tumour lesions were associated with inter-hemispherically symmetric network alterations, and functional proximity of tumour location was stronger linked to distributed network deterioration than anatomical distance. In the longitudinal subcohort of six patients, we observed patterns of network alterations with initial transient deterioration followed by recovery at first follow-up, and local network deterioration to precede structural tumour recurrence by two months. In summary, the impact of focal glioblastoma lesions on the functional connectome is global and linked to functional proximity rather than anatomical distance to tumour regions. Our findings further suggest a relevance for functional network trajectories as a possible means supporting early detection of tumour recurrence.
Using positron emission tomography, we recently demonstrated elevated brain levels of the 18kDa translocator protein (TSPO), a glial activation marker, in chronic low back pain (cLBP) patients, compared to healthy controls (HC). Here, we first sought to replicate the original findings in an independent cohort (15 cLBP, 37.8±12.5 y/o; 18 HC, 48.2±12.8 y/o). We then trained random forest (RF) machine learning algorithms based on TSPO imaging features combining discovery and replication cohorts (totaling 25 cLBP, 42.4±13.2 y/o; 27 HC, 48.9±12.6 y/o), in order to explore whether image features other than the mean contain meaningful information that might contribute to the discrimination of cLBP patients and HC. Feature importance was ranked usind SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) values, and the classification performance (in terms of AUC values) of classifiers containing only the mean, other features, or all features was compared using the DeLong test. Both region-of-interest (ROI) and voxelwise analyses replicated the original observation of thalamic TSPO signal elevations in cLBP patients compared to HC (p's<0.05). The RF-based analyses revealed that while the mean is a discriminating feature, other features demonstrate similar level of importance, including the maximum, kurtosis and entropy.Our observations suggest that thalamic neuroinflammatory signal is a reproducible and discriminating feature for cLBP, further supporting a role for glial activation in human chronic low back pain, and the exploration of neuroinflammation as a therapeutic target for chronic pain. This work further shows that TSPO signal contains a richness of information that the simple mean might fail to capture completely.
BACKGROUND: Extracellular free water within cerebral white matter tissue has been shown to increase with age and pathology, yet the cognitive consequences of free water in typical aging prior to the development of neurodegenerative disease remains unclear. Understanding the contribution of free water to cognitive function in older adults may provide important insight into the neural mechanisms of the cognitive aging process. METHODS: A diffusion-weighted MRI measure of extracellular free water as well as a commonly used diffusion MRI metric (fractional anisotropy) along nine bilateral white matter pathways were examined for their relationship with cognitive function assessed by the NIH Toolbox Cognitive Battery in 47 older adults (mean age = 74.4 years, SD = 5.4 years, range = 65-85 years). Probabilistic tractography at the 99th percentile level of probability (Tracts Constrained by Underlying Anatomy; TRACULA) was utilized to produce the pathways on which microstructural characteristics were overlaid and examined for their contribution to cognitive function independent of age, education, and gender. RESULTS: When examining the 99th percentile probability core white matter pathway derived from TRACULA, poorer fluid cognitive ability was related to higher mean free water values across the angular and cingulum bundles of the cingulate gyrus, as well as the corticospinal tract and the superior longitudinal fasciculus. There was no relationship between cognition and mean FA or free water-adjusted FA across the 99th percentile core white matter pathway. Crystallized cognitive ability was not associated with any of the diffusion measures. When examining cognitive domains comprising the NIH Toolbox Fluid Cognition index relationships with these white matter pathways, mean free water demonstrated strong hemispheric and functional specificity for cognitive performance, whereas mean FA was not related to age or cognition across the 99th percentile pathway. CONCLUSIONS: Extracellular free water within white matter appears to increase with normal aging, and higher values are associated with significantly lower fluid but not crystallized cognitive functions. When using TRACULA to estimate the core of a white matter pathway, a higher degree of free water appears to be highly specific to the pathways associated with memory, working memory, and speeded decision-making performance, whereas no such relationship existed with FA. These data suggest that free water may play an important role in the cognitive aging process, and may serve as a stronger and more specific indicator of early cognitive decline than traditional diffusion MRI measures, such as FA.
PURPOSE: To optimize diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding for precise estimation of compartment-specific fractions, diffusivities, and T values within a two-compartment model of white matter, and to explore the approach in vivo. METHODS: Sampling protocols featuring different b-values (b), b-tensor shapes (b ), and echo times (TE) were optimized using Cramér-Rao lower bounds (CRLB). Whole-brain data were acquired in children, adults, and elderly with white matter lesions. Compartment fractions, diffusivities, and T values were estimated in a model featuring two microstructural compartments represented by a "stick" and a "zeppelin." RESULTS: Precise parameter estimates were enabled by sampling protocols featuring seven or more "shells" with unique b/b /TE-combinations. Acquisition times were approximately 15 minutes. In white matter of adults, the "stick" compartment had a fraction of approximately 0.5 and, compared with the "zeppelin" compartment, featured lower isotropic diffusivities (0.6 vs. 1.3 μm /ms) but higher T values (85 vs. 65 ms). Children featured lower "stick" fractions (0.4). White matter lesions exhibited high "zeppelin" isotropic diffusivities (1.7 μm /ms) and T values (150 ms). CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding expands the set of microstructure parameters that can be precisely estimated and therefore increases their specificity to biological quantities.
The corticospinal tract (CST) is one of the most well studied tracts in human neuroanatomy. Its clinical significance can be demonstrated in many notable traumatic conditions and diseases such as stroke, spinal cord injury (SCI) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With the advent of diffusion MRI and tractography the computational representation of the human CST in a 3D model became available. However, the representation of the entire CST and, specifically, the hand motor area has remained elusive. In this paper we propose a novel method, using manually drawn ROIs based on robustly identifiable neuroanatomic structures to delineate the entire CST and isolate its hand motor representation as well as to estimate their variability and generate a database of their volume, length and biophysical parameters. Using 37 healthy human subjects we performed a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the CST and the hand-related motor fiber tracts (HMFTs). Finally, we have created variability heat maps from 37 subjects for both the aforementioned tracts, which could be utilized as a reference for future studies with clinical focus to explore neuropathology in both trauma and disease states.