Microstructure imaging seeks to noninvasively measure and map microscopic tissue features by pairing mathematical modeling with tailored MRI protocols. This article reviews an emerging paradigm that has the potential to provide a more detailed assessment of tissue microstructure-combined diffusion-relaxometry imaging. Combined diffusion-relaxometry acquisitions vary multiple MR contrast encodings-such as b-value, gradient direction, inversion time, and echo time-in a multidimensional acquisition space. When paired with suitable analysis techniques, this enables quantification of correlations and coupling between multiple MR parameters-such as diffusivity, T 1 , T 2 , and T 2 ∗ . This opens the possibility of disentangling multiple tissue compartments (within voxels) that are indistinguishable with single-contrast scans, enabling a new generation of microstructural maps with improved biological sensitivity and specificity.
Most existing algorithms for automatic 3D morphometry of human brain MRI scans are designed for data with near-isotropic voxels at approximately 1 mm resolution, and frequently have contrast constraints as well-typically requiring T1-weighted images (e.g., MP-RAGE scans). This limitation prevents the analysis of millions of MRI scans acquired with large inter-slice spacing in clinical settings every year. In turn, the inability to quantitatively analyze these scans hinders the adoption of quantitative neuro imaging in healthcare, and also precludes research studies that could attain huge sample sizes and hence greatly improve our understanding of the human brain. Recent advances in convolutional neural networks (CNNs) are producing outstanding results in super-resolution and contrast synthesis of MRI. However, these approaches are very sensitive to the specific combination of contrast, resolution and orientation of the input images, and thus do not generalize to diverse clinical acquisition protocols - even within sites. In this article, we present SynthSR, a method to train a CNN that receives one or more scans with spaced slices, acquired with different contrast, resolution and orientation, and produces an isotropic scan of canonical contrast (typically a 1 mm MP-RAGE). The presented method does not require any preprocessing, beyond rigid coregistration of the input scans. Crucially, SynthSR trains on synthetic input images generated from 3D segmentations, and can thus be used to train CNNs for any combination of contrasts, resolutions and orientations without high-resolution real images of the input contrasts. We test the images generated with SynthSR in an array of common downstream analyses, and show that they can be reliably used for subcortical segmentation and volumetry, image registration (e.g., for tensor-based morphometry), and, if some image quality requirements are met, even cortical thickness morphometry. The source code is publicly available at https://github.com/BBillot/SynthSR.
Objective: Sexual dimorphism has been investigated in schizophrenia, although sex-specific differences among individuals who are at clinical high-risk (CHR) for developing psychosis have been inconclusive. This study aims to characterize sexual dimorphism of language areas in the brain by investigating the asymmetry of four white matter tracts relevant to verbal working memory in CHR patients compared to healthy controls (HC). HC typically show a leftward asymmetry of these tracts. Moreover, structural abnormalities in asymmetry and verbal working memory dysfunctions have been associated with neurodevelopmental abnormalities and are considered core features of schizophrenia. Methods: Twenty-nine subjects with CHR (17 female/12 male) for developing psychosis and twenty-one HC (11 female/10 male) matched for age, sex, and education were included in the study. Two-tensor unscented Kalman filter tractography, followed by an automated, atlas-guided fiber clustering approach, were used to identify four fiber tracts related to verbal working memory: the superior longitudinal fasciculi (SLF) I, II and III, and the superior occipitofrontal fasciculus (SOFF). Using fractional anisotropy (FA) of tissue as the primary measure, we calculated the laterality index for each tract. Results: There was a significantly greater right>left asymmetry of the SLF-III in CHR females compared to HC females, but no hemispheric difference between CHR vs. HC males. Moreover, the laterality index of SLF-III for CHR females correlated negatively with Backward Digit Span performance, suggesting a greater rightward asymmetry was associated with poorer working memory functioning. Conclusion: This study suggests increased rightward asymmetry of the SLF-III in CHR females. This finding of sexual dimorphism in white matter asymmetry in a language-related area of the brain in CHR highlights the need for a deeper understanding of the role of sex in the high-risk state. Future work investigating early sex-specific pathophysiological mechanisms, may lead to the development of novel personalized treatment strategies aimed at preventing transition to a more chronic and difficult-to-treat disorder.
Introduction: Neuronavigation greatly improves the surgeons ability to approach, assess and operate on brain tumors, but tends to lose its accuracy as the surgery progresses and substantial brain shift and deformation occurs. Intraoperative MRI (iMRI) can partially address this problem but is resource intensive and workflow disruptive. Intraoperative ultrasound (iUS) provides real-time information that can be used to update neuronavigation and provide real-time information regarding the resection progress. We describe the intraoperative use of 3D iUS in relation to iMRI, and discuss the challenges and opportunities in its use in neurosurgical practice. Methods: We performed a retrospective evaluation of patients who underwent image-guided brain tumor resection in which both 3D iUS and iMRI were used. The study was conducted between June 2020 and December 2020 when an extension of a commercially available navigation software was introduced in our practice enabling 3D iUS volumes to be reconstructed from tracked 2D iUS images. For each patient, three or more 3D iUS images were acquired during the procedure, and one iMRI was acquired towards the end. The iUS images included an extradural ultrasound sweep acquired before dural incision (iUS-1), a post-dural opening iUS (iUS-2), and a third iUS acquired immediately before the iMRI acquisition (iUS-3). iUS-1 and preoperative MRI were compared to evaluate the ability of iUS to visualize tumor boundaries and critical anatomic landmarks; iUS-3 and iMRI were compared to evaluate the ability of iUS for predicting residual tumor. Results: Twenty-three patients were included in this study. Fifteen patients had tumors located in eloquent or near eloquent brain regions, the majority of patients had low grade gliomas (11), gross total resection was achieved in 12 patients, postoperative temporary deficits were observed in five patients. In twenty-two iUS was able to define tumor location, tumor margins, and was able to indicate relevant landmarks for orientation and guidance. In sixteen cases, white matter fiber tracts computed from preoperative dMRI were overlaid on the iUS images. In nineteen patients, the EOR (GTR or STR) was predicted by iUS and confirmed by iMRI. The remaining four patients where iUS was not able to evaluate the presence or absence of residual tumor were recurrent cases with a previous surgical cavity that hindered good contact between the US probe and the brainsurface. Conclusion: This recent experience at our institution illustrates the practical benefits, challenges, and opportunities of 3D iUS in relation to iMRI.
OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this exploratory study were to investigate the feasibility of multidimensional diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MddMRI) in assessing diffusion heterogeneity at both a macroscopic and microscopic level in prostate cancer (PCa). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Informed consent was obtained from 46 subjects who underwent 3.0-T prostate multiparametric MRI, complemented with a prototype spin echo-based MddMRI sequence in this institutional review board-approved study. Prostate cancer tumors and comparative normal tissue from each patient were contoured on both apparent diffusion coefficient and MddMRI-derived mean diffusivity (MD) maps (from which microscopic diffusion heterogeneity [MKi] and microscopic diffusion anisotropy were derived) using 3D Slicer. The discriminative ability of MddMRI-derived parameters to differentiate PCa from normal tissue was determined using the Friedman test. To determine if tumor diffusion heterogeneity is similar on macroscopic and microscopic scales, the linear association between SD of MD and mean MKi was estimated using robust regression (bisquare weighting). Hypothesis testing was 2 tailed; P values less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant. RESULTS: All MddMRI-derived parameters could distinguish tumor from normal tissue in the fixed-effects analysis (P < 0.0001). Tumor MKi was higher (P < 0.05) compared with normal tissue (median, 0.40; interquartile range, 0.29-0.52 vs 0.20-0.18; 0.25), as was tumor microscopic diffusion anisotropy (0.55; 0.36-0.81 vs 0.20-0.15; 0.28). The MKi could not be predicted (no significant association) by SD of MD. There was a significant correlation between tumor volume and SD of MD (R2 = 0.50, slope = 0.008 μm2/ms per millimeter, P < 0.001) but not between tumor volume and MKi. CONCLUSIONS: This explorative study demonstrates that MddMRI provides novel information on MKi and microscopic anisotropy, which differ from measures at the macroscopic level. MddMRI has the potential to characterize tumor tissue heterogeneity at different spatial scales.
In this work, we leverage the Laplacian eigenbasis of voxel-wise white matter (WM) graphs derived from diffusion-weighted MRI data, dubbed WM harmonics, to characterize the spatial structure of WM fMRI data. Our motivation for such a characterization is based on studies that show WM fMRI data exhibit a spatial correlational anisotropy that coincides with underlying fiber patterns. By quantifying the energy content of WM fMRI data associated with subsets of WM harmonics across multiple spectral bands, we show that the data exhibits notable subtle spatial modulations under functional load that are not manifested during rest. WM harmonics provide a novel means to study the spatial dynamics of WM fMRI data, in such way that the analysis is informed by the underlying anatomical structure.
PURPOSE: Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. The rate is disproportionately high among men in sub-Saharan Africa where, unlike in North America and Western Europe, the screening process for prostate cancer has historically not been routine. Currently, as awareness regarding prostate health increases, more patients in this region are being referred to trans-rectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy, a diagnosis procedure which requires a strong understanding of prostate zonal anatomy. To aid in the instruction of this procedure, prostate biopsy training programs need to be implemented. Unfortunately, current TRUS-guided training tools are not ideal for reproducibility in these Western African countries. To answer this challenge, we are developing an affordable and open-source training simulator for TRUS-guided prostate biopsy, for use in Senegal. In this paper, we present the implementation of the training simulator’s virtual interface, highlighting the generation and evaluation of the critical training component of zonal anatomy overlaid on TRUS.
METHODS: For the simulator’s dataset, we registered TRUS and MRI volumes together to obtain the zonal segmentation from the MRI volumes. After generating ten pairings of TRUS overlaid with zonal segmentation, we designed and implemented a virtual TRUS training system, developed in open-source software. The objective of our simulator is to teach trainees to accurately identify the prostate’s anatomical zones in TRUS. To confirm the system’s usability for training zonal identification, we conducted a two-part survey on the quality of the zonal overlays with 7 urology experts. In the first part, they assessed the zonal overlay for visual correctness by rating 10 images from one patient’s TRUS with registered overlay on a 5-point Likert scale. For the second part, they labelled 10 plain TRUS volumes with zonal anatomy and the labels were compared to the labels of our overlay.
RESULTS: On average, experts rated the zonal overlay’s visual accuracy at 4 out of 5. Furthermore, 7 out of 7 experts labelled the peripheral, anterior, and transitional zones in the same regions we overlaid them, and 5 out of 7 labelled the central zone in the same region we overlaid it.
CONCLUSION: We created the prototype of a TRUS imaging simulator in open-source software. A vital training component, zonal overlay, was generated using publicly accessible data and validated by expert urologists for prostate zone identification, confirming the concept.
The corticospinal tract is the most intensively investigated tract of the human motor system in stroke rehabilitative research. Diffusion-tensor-imaging gives insights into its microstructure, and transcranial magnetic stimulation assesses its excitability. Previous data on the interrelationship between both measures are contradictory. Correlative or predictive models which associate them with motor outcome are incomplete. Free water correction has been developed to enhance diffusion-tensor-imaging by eliminating partial volume with extracellular water, which could improve capturing stroke-related microstructural alterations, thereby also improving structure-function relationships in clinical cohorts. In the present cross-sectional study, data of 18 chronic stroke patients and 17 healthy controls, taken from a previous study on cortico-cerebellar motor tracts, were re-analysed: The data included diffusion-tensor-imaging data quantifying corticospinal tract microstructure with and without free water correction, transcranial magnetic stimulation data assessing recruitment curve properties of motor evoked potentials and detailed clinical data. Linear regression modelling was used to interrelate corticospinal tract microstructure, recruitment curves properties and clinical scores. The main finding of the present study was that free water correction substantially strengthens structure-function associations in stroke patients: Specifically, our data evidenced a significant association between fractional anisotropy of the ipsilesional corticospinal tract and its excitability ( = 0.001, adj. = 0.54), with free water correction explaining additional 20% in recruitment curve variability. For clinical scores, only free water correction leads to the reliable detection of significant correlations between ipsilesional corticospinal tract fractional anisotropy and residual grip ( = 0.001, adj. = 0.70) and pinch force ( < 0.001, adj. = 0.72). Finally, multimodal models can be improved by free water correction as well. This study evidences that corticospinal tract microstructure directly relates to its excitability in stroke patients. It also shows that unexplained variance in motor outcome is considerably reduced by free water correction arguing that it might serve as a powerful tool to improve existing models of structure-function associations and potentially also outcome prediction after stroke.
The retinogeniculate visual pathway (RGVP) conveys visual information from the retina to the lateral geniculate nucleus. The RGVP has four subdivisions, including two decussating and two nondecussating pathways that cannot be identified on conventional structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Diffusion MRI tractography has the potential to trace these subdivisions and is increasingly used to study the RGVP. However, it is not yet known which fiber tracking strategy is most suitable for RGVP reconstruction. In this study, four tractography methods are compared, including constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD) based probabilistic (iFOD1) and deterministic (SD-Stream) methods, and multi-fiber (UKF-2T) and single-fiber (UKF-1T) unscented Kalman filter (UKF) methods. Experiments use diffusion MRI data from 57 subjects in the Human Connectome Project. The RGVP is identified using regions of interest created by two clinical experts. Quantitative anatomical measurements and expert anatomical judgment are used to assess the advantages and limitations of the four tractography methods. Overall, we conclude that UKF-2T and iFOD1 produce the best RGVP reconstruction results. The iFOD1 method can better quantitatively estimate the percentage of decussating fibers, while the UKF-2T method produces reconstructed RGVPs that are judged to better correspond to the known anatomy and have the highest spatial overlap across subjects. Overall, we find that it is challenging for current tractography methods to both accurately track RGVP fibers that correspond to known anatomy and produce an approximately correct percentage of decussating fibers. We suggest that future algorithm development for RGVP tractography should take consideration of both of these two points.
BACKGROUND: While previous studies have implicated white matter (WM) as a core pathology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the underlying neurobiological processes remain elusive. This study utilizes free-water imaging derived from diffusion MRI to identify cellular and extracellular WM abnormalities in patients with OCD compared to controls (Cs). Next, we investigate the association between diffusion measures, and clinical variables in patients. METHODS: We collected diffusion-weighted MRI and clinical data from eighty-three patients with OCD (56 females/27 males, age=37.7 ± 10.6) and 52 Cs (27 females/25 males, age=32.8 ± 11.5). Fractional anisotropy (FA), fractional anisotropy of cellular tissue (FAT), and extracellular free-water (FW) maps were extracted and compared between patients and Cs using tract-based spatial statistics, and voxel-wise comparison in FSL's Randomise. Next, we correlated these WM measures with clinical variables (age-of-onset and symptom severity) and compared them between patients with and without comorbidities and patients with and without psychiatric medication. RESULTS: Patients with OCD demonstrated lower FA (43.4% of the WM skeleton), FAт (31% of the WM skeleton), and higher FW (22.5% of the WM skeleton) compared to Cs. We did not observe significant correlations between diffusion measures and clinical variables. Comorbidities and medication status did not influence diffusion measures. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings of widespread FA, FAт, and FW abnormalities suggest that OCD is associated with both microstructural cellular and extracellular abnormalities beyond the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuits. Future multimodal longitudinal studies are needed to understand better the influence of essential clinical variables across the illness trajectory.
Diffusion encoding along multiple spatial directions per signal acquisition can be described in terms of a b-tensor. The benefit of tensor-valued diffusion encoding is that it unlocks the 'shape of the b-tensor' as a new encoding dimension. By modulating the b-tensor shape, we can control the sensitivity to microscopic diffusion anisotropy which can be used as a contrast mechanism; a feature that is inaccessible by conventional diffusion encoding. Since imaging methods based on tensor-valued diffusion encoding are finding an increasing number of applications we are prompted to highlight the challenge of designing the optimal gradient waveforms for any given application. In this review, we first establish the basic design objectives in creating field gradient waveforms for tensor-valued diffusion MRI. We also survey additional design considerations related to limitations imposed by hardware and physiology, potential confounding effects that cannot be captured by the b-tensor, and artifacts related to the diffusion encoding waveform. Throughout, we discuss the expected compromises and tradeoffs with an aim to establish a more complete understanding of gradient waveform design and its impact on accurate measurements and interpretations of data.
Segmentation of brain tissue types from diffusion MRI (dMRI) is an important task, required for quantification of brain microstructure and for improving tractography. Current dMRI segmentation is mostly based on anatomical MRI (e.g., T1- and T2-weighted) segmentation that is registered to the dMRI space. However, such inter-modality registration is challenging due to more image distortions and lower image resolution in dMRI as compared with anatomical MRI. In this study, we present a deep learning method for diffusion MRI segmentation, which we refer to as DDSeg. Our proposed method learns tissue segmentation from high-quality imaging data from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), where registration of anatomical MRI to dMRI is more precise. The method is then able to predict a tissue segmentation directly from new dMRI data, including data collected with different acquisition protocols, without requiring anatomical data and inter-modality registration. We train a convolutional neural network (CNN) to learn a tissue segmentation model using a novel augmented target loss function designed to improve accuracy in regions of tissue boundary. To further improve accuracy, our method adds diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) parameters that characterize non-Gaussian water molecule diffusion to the conventional diffusion tensor imaging parameters. The DKI parameters are calculated from the recently proposed mean-kurtosis-curve method that corrects implausible DKI parameter values and provides additional features that discriminate between tissue types. We demonstrate high tissue segmentation accuracy on HCP data, and also when applying the HCP-trained model on dMRI data from other acquisitions with lower resolution and fewer gradient directions.
PURPOSE: To introduce, develop, and evaluate a novel denoising technique for diffusion MRI that leverages nonlinear redundancy in the data to boost the SNR while preserving signal information. METHODS: We exploit nonlinear redundancy of the dMRI data by means of kernel principal component analysis (KPCA), a nonlinear generalization of PCA to reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. By mapping the signal to a high-dimensional space, a higher level of redundant information is exploited, thereby enabling better denoising than linear PCA. We implement KPCA with a Gaussian kernel, with parameters automatically selected from knowledge of the noise statistics, and validate it on realistic Monte Carlo simulations as well as with in vivo human brain submillimeter and low-resolution dMRI data. We also demonstrate KPCA denoising on multi-coil dMRI data. RESULTS: SNR improvements up to 2.7 were obtained in real in vivo datasets denoised with KPCA, in comparison to SNR gains of up to 1.8 using a linear PCA denoising technique called Marchenko-Pastur PCA (MPPCA). Compared to gold-standard dataset references created from averaged data, we showed that lower normalized root mean squared error was achieved with KPCA compared to MPPCA. Statistical analysis of residuals shows that anatomical information is preserved and only noise is removed. Improvements in the estimation of diffusion model parameters such as fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, and fiber orientation distribution functions were also demonstrated. CONCLUSION: Nonlinear redundancy of the dMRI signal can be exploited with KPCA, which allows superior noise reduction/SNR improvements than the MPPCA method, without loss of signal information.
PURPOSE: We aimed to develop a predictive model of disease severity for cirrhosis using MRI-derived radiomic features of the liver and spleen and compared it to the existing disease severity metrics of MELD score and clinical decompensation. The MELD score is compiled solely by blood parameters, and so far, it was not investigated if extracted image-based features have the potential to reflect severity to potentially complement the calculated score. METHODS: This was a retrospective study of eligible patients with cirrhosis ([Formula: see text]) who underwent a contrast-enhanced MR screening protocol for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) screening at a tertiary academic center from 2015 to 2018. Radiomic feature analyses were used to train four prediction models for assessing the patient's condition at time of scan: MELD score, MELD score [Formula: see text] 9 (median score of the cohort), MELD score [Formula: see text] 15 (the inflection between the risk and benefit of transplant), and clinical decompensation. Liver and spleen segmentations were used for feature extraction, followed by cross-validated random forest classification. RESULTS: Radiomic features of the liver and spleen were most predictive of clinical decompensation (AUC 0.84), which the MELD score could predict with an AUC of 0.78. Using liver or spleen features alone had slightly lower discrimination ability (AUC of 0.82 for liver and AUC of 0.78 for spleen features only), although this was not statistically significant on our cohort. When radiomic prediction models were trained to predict continuous MELD scores, there was poor correlation. When stratifying risk by splitting our cohort at the median MELD 9 or at MELD 15, our models achieved AUCs of 0.78 or 0.66, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that MRI-based radiomic features of the liver and spleen have the potential to predict the severity of liver cirrhosis, using decompensation or MELD status as imperfect surrogate measures for disease severity.
Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) is a diffusion MRI approach that enables the measurement of brain microstructural properties, reflecting molecular restrictions and tissue heterogeneity. DKI parameters such as mean kurtosis (MK) provide additional subtle information to that provided by popular diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) parameters, and thus have been considered useful to detect white matter abnormalities, especially in populations that are not expected to show severe brain pathologies. However, DKI parameters often yield artifactual output values that are outside of the biologically plausible range, which diminish sensitivity to identify true microstructural changes. Recently we have proposed the mean-kurtosis-curve (MK-Curve) method to correct voxels with implausible DKI parameters, and demonstrated its improved performance against other approaches that correct artifacts in DKI. In this work, we aimed to evaluate the utility of the MK-Curve method to improve the identification of white matter abnormalities in group comparisons. To do so, we compared group differences, with and without the MK-Curve correction, between 115 individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis (CHR) and 93 healthy controls (HCs). We also compared the correlation of the corrected and uncorrected DKI parameters with clinical characteristics. Following the MK-curve correction, the group differences had larger effect sizes and higher statistical significance (i.e., lower p-values), demonstrating increased sensitivity to detect group differences, in particular in MK. Furthermore, the MK-curve-corrected DKI parameters displayed stronger correlations with clinical variables in CHR individuals, demonstrating the clinical relevance of the corrected parameters. Overall, following the MK-curve correction our analyses found widespread lower MK in CHR that overlapped with lower fractional anisotropy (FA), and both measures were significantly correlated with a decline in functioning and with more severe symptoms. These observations further characterize white matter alterations in the CHR stage, demonstrating that MK and FA abnormalities are widespread, and mostly overlap. The improvement in group differences and stronger correlation with clinical variables suggest that applying MK-curve would be beneficial for the detection and characterization of subtle group differences in other experiments as well.
Translating deep learning research from theory into clinical practice has unique challenges, specifically in the field of neuroimaging. In this paper, we present DeepNeuro, a Python-based deep learning framework that puts deep neural networks for neuroimaging into practical usage with a minimum of friction during implementation. We show how this framework can be used to design deep learning pipelines that can load and preprocess data, design and train various neural network architectures, and evaluate and visualize the results of trained networks on evaluation data. We present a way of reproducibly packaging data pre- and postprocessing functions common in the neuroimaging community, which facilitates consistent performance of networks across variable users, institutions, and scanners. We show how deep learning pipelines created with DeepNeuro can be concisely packaged into shareable Docker and Singularity containers with user-friendly command-line interfaces.