Computational methods are crucial for the analysis of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Computational diffusion MRI can provide rich information at many size scales, including local microstructure measures such as diffusion anisotropies or apparent axon diameters, whole-brain connectivity information that describes the brain’s wiring diagram and population-based studies in health and disease. Many of the diffusion MRI analyses performed today were not possible five, ten or twenty years ago, due to the requirements for large amounts of computer memory or processor time. In addition, mathematical frameworks had to be developed or adapted from other fields to create new ways to analyze diffusion MRI data. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent computational and statistical advances in diffusion MRI and to put these advances into context by comparison with the more traditional computational methods that are in popular clinical and scientific use. We aim to provide a high-level overview of interest to diffusion MRI researchers, with a more in-depth treatment to illustrate selected computational advances.
We address the problem of interpolating randomly non-uniformly spatiotemporally scattered uncertain motion measurements, which arises in the context of soft tissue motion estimation. Soft tissue motion estimation is of great interest in the field of image-guided soft-tissue intervention and surgery navigation, because it enables the registration of pre-interventional/pre-operative navigation information on deformable soft-tissue organs. To formally define the measurements as spatiotemporally scattered motion signal samples, we propose a novel motion field representation. To perform the interpolation of the motion measurements in an uncertainty-aware optimal unbiased fashion, we devise a novel Gaussian process (GP) regression model with a non-constant-mean prior and an anisotropic covariance function and show through an extensive evaluation that it outperforms the state-of-the-art GP models that have been deployed previously for similar tasks. The employment of GP regression enables the quantification of uncertainty in the interpolation result, which would allow the amount of uncertainty present in the registered navigation information governing the decisions of the surgeon or intervention specialist to be conveyed.
BACKGROUND: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a major sequela of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in youths. The objective of this study was to examine whether ADHD symptoms are differentially associated with genetic risk and brain structure in youths with and without a history of TBI. METHODS: Medical history, ADHD symptoms, genetic data, and neuroimaging data were obtained from a community sample of youths. ADHD symptom severity was compared between those with and without TBI (TBI n = 418, no TBI n = 3193). The relationship of TBI history, genetic vulnerability, brain structure, and ADHD symptoms was examined by assessing 1) ADHD polygenic score (discovery sample ADHD n = 19,099, control sample n = 34,194), 2) basal ganglia volumes, and 3) fractional anisotropy in the corpus callosum and corona radiata. RESULTS: Youths with TBI reported greater ADHD symptom severity compared with those without TBI. Polygenic score was positively associated with ADHD symptoms in youths without TBI but not in youths with TBI. The negative association between the caudate volume and ADHD symptoms was not moderated by a history of TBI. However, the relationship between ADHD symptoms and structure of the genu of the corpus callosum was negative in youths with TBI and positive in youths without TBI. CONCLUSIONS: The identification of distinct ADHD etiology in youths with TBI provides neurobiological insight into the clinical heterogeneity in the disorder. Results indicate that genetic predisposition to ADHD does not increase the risk for ADHD symptoms associated with TBI. ADHD symptoms associated with TBI may be a result of a mechanical insult rather than neurodevelopmental factors.
Diffusion-attenuated MR signal for heterogeneous media has been represented as a sum of signals from anisotropic Gaussian sub-domains to the extent that this approximation is permissible. Any effect of macroscopic (global or ensemble) anisotropy in the signal can be removed by averaging the signal values obtained by differently oriented experimental schemes. The resulting average signal is identical to what one would get if the micro-domains are isotropically (e.g., randomly) distributed with respect to orientation, which is the case for "powdered" specimens. We provide exact expressions for the orientationally-averaged signal obtained via general gradient waveforms when the microdomains are characterized by a general diffusion tensor possibly featuring three distinct eigenvalues. This extends earlier results which covered only axisymmetric diffusion as well as measurement tensors. Our results are expected to be useful in not only multidimensional diffusion MR but also solid-state NMR spectroscopy due to the mathematical similarities in the two fields.
There are two popular approaches for automated white matter parcellation using diffusion MRI tractography, including fiber clustering strategies that group white matter fibers according to their geometric trajectories and cortical-parcellation-based strategies that focus on the structural connectivity among different brain regions of interest. While multiple studies have assessed test-retest reproducibility of automated white matter parcellations using cortical-parcellation-based strategies, there are no existing studies of test-retest reproducibility of fiber clustering parcellation. In this work, we perform what we believe is the first study of fiber clustering white matter parcellation test-retest reproducibility. The assessment is performed on three test-retest diffusion MRI datasets including a total of 255 subjects across genders, a broad age range (5-82 years), health conditions (autism, Parkinson’s disease and healthy subjects), and imaging acquisition protocols (three different sites). A comprehensive evaluation is conducted for a fiber clustering method that leverages an anatomically curated fiber clustering white matter atlas, with comparison to a popular cortical-parcellation-based method. The two methods are compared for the two main white matter parcellation applications of dividing the entire white matter into parcels (i.e., whole brain white matter parcellation) and identifying particular anatomical fiber tracts (i.e., anatomical fiber tract parcellation). Test-retest reproducibility is measured using both geometric and diffusion features, including volumetric overlap (wDice) and relative difference of fractional anisotropy. Our experimental results in general indicate that the fiber clustering method produced more reproducible white matter parcellations than the cortical-parcellation-based method.
Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) is a diffusion MRI (dMRI) technique to quantify brain microstructural properties. While DKI measures are sensitive to tissue alterations, they are also affected by signal alterations caused by imaging artifacts such as noise, motion and Gibbs ringing. Consequently, DKI often yields output parameter values (e.g. mean kurtosis; MK) that are implausible. These include implausible values that are outside of the range dictated by physics/biology, and visually apparent implausible values that form unexpected discontinuities, being too high or too low comparing with their neighborhood. These implausible values will introduce bias into any following data analyses (e.g. between-population statistical computation). Existing studies have attempted to correct implausible DKI parameter values in multiple ways; however, these approaches are not always effective. In this study, we propose a novel method for detecting and correcting voxels with implausible values to enable improved DKI parameter estimation. In particular, we focus on MK parameter estimation. We first characterize the relation between MK and alterations in the dMRI signal including diffusion weighted images (DWIs) and the baseline (b0) images. This is done by calculating MK for a range of synthetic DWI or b0 for each voxel, and generating curves (MK-curve) representing how alterations to the input dMRI signals affect the resulting output MK. We find that voxels with implausible MK values are more likely caused by artifacts in the b0 images than artifacts in DWIs with higher b-values. Accordingly, two characteristic b0 values, which define a range of synthetic b0 values that generate implausible MK values, are identified on the MK-curve. Based on this characterization, we propose an automatic approach for detection of voxels with implausible MK values by comparing a voxel’s original b0 signal to the identified two characteristic b0 values, along with a correction strategy to replace the original b0 in each detected implausible voxel with a synthetic b0 value computed from the MK-curve. We evaluate the method on a DKI phantom dataset and dMRI datasets from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), and we compare the proposed correction method with other previously proposed correction methods. Results show that our proposed method is able to identify and correct most voxels with implausible DKI parameter values as well as voxels with implausible diffusion tensor parameter values.
White matter hyperintensity (WMH) burden is a critically important cerebrovascular phenotype linked to prediction of diagnosis and prognosis of diseases, such as acute ischemic stroke (AIS). However, current approaches to its quantification on clinical MRI often rely on time intensive manual delineation of the disease on T2 fluid attenuated inverse recovery (FLAIR), which hinders high-throughput analyses such as genetic discovery. In this work, we present a fully automated pipeline for quantification of WMH in clinical large-scale studies of AIS. The pipeline incorporates automated brain extraction, intensity normalization and WMH segmentation using spatial priors. We first propose a brain extraction algorithm based on a fully convolutional deep learning architecture, specifically designed for clinical FLAIR images. We demonstrate that our method for brain extraction outperforms two commonly used and publicly available methods on clinical quality images in a set of 144 subject scans across 12 acquisition centers, based on dice coefficient (median 0.95; inter-quartile range 0.94-0.95; p < 0.01) and Pearson correlation of total brain volume (r = 0.90). Subsequently, we apply it to the large-scale clinical multi-site MRI-GENIE study (N = 2783) and identify a decrease in total brain volume of -2.4 cc/year. Additionally, we show that the resulting total brain volumes can successfully be used for quality control of image preprocessing. Finally, we obtain WMH volumes by building on an existing automatic WMH segmentation algorithm that delineates and distinguishes between different cerebrovascular pathologies. The learning method mimics expert knowledge of the spatial distribution of the WMH burden using a convolutional auto-encoder. This enables successful computation of WMH volumes of 2533 clinical AIS patients. We utilize these results to demonstrate the increase of WMH burden with age (0.950 cc/year) and show that single site estimates can be biased by the number of subjects recruited.
PURPOSE: Diffusion encoding with asymmetric gradient waveforms is appealing because the asymmetry provides superior efficiency. However, concomitant gradients may cause a residual gradient moment at the end of the waveform, which can cause significant signal error and image artifacts. The purpose of this study was to develop an asymmetric waveform designs for tensor-valued diffusion encoding that is not sensitive to concomitant gradients. METHODS: The "Maxwell index" was proposed as a scalar invariant to capture the effect of concomitant gradients. Optimization of "Maxwell-compensated" waveforms was performed in which this index was constrained. Resulting waveforms were compared to waveforms from literature, in terms of the measured and predicted impact of concomitant gradients, by numerical analysis as well as experiments in a phantom and in a healthy human brain. RESULTS: Maxwell-compensated waveforms with Maxwell indices below 100 (mT/m) ms showed negligible signal bias in both numerical analysis and experiments. By contrast, several waveforms from literature showed gross signal bias under the same conditions, leading to a signal bias that was large enough to markedly affect parameter maps. Experimental results were accurately predicted by theory. CONCLUSION: Constraining the Maxwell index in the optimization of asymmetric gradient waveforms yields efficient diffusion encoding that negates the effects of concomitant fields while enabling arbitrary shapes of the b-tensor. This waveform design is especially useful in combination with strong gradients, long encoding times, thick slices, simultaneous multi-slice acquisition, and large FOVs.