Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) tractography is an advanced imaging technique that enables in vivo reconstruction of the brain's white matter connections at macro scale. It provides an important tool for quantitative mapping of the brain's structural connectivity using measures of connectivity or tissue microstructure. Over the last two decades, the study of brain connectivity using dMRI tractography has played a prominent role in the neuroimaging research landscape. In this paper, we provide a high-level overview of how tractography is used to enable quantitative analysis of the brain's structural connectivity in health and disease. We focus on two types of quantitative analyses of tractography, including: 1) tract-specific analysis that refers to research that is typically hypothesis-driven and studies particular anatomical fiber tracts, and 2) connectome-based analysis that refers to research that is more data-driven and generally studies the structural connectivity of the entire brain. We first provide a review of methodology involved in three main processing steps that are common across most approaches for quantitative analysis of tractography, including methods for tractography correction, segmentation and quantification. For each step, we aim to describe methodological choices, their popularity, and potential pros and cons. We then review studies that have used quantitative tractography approaches to study the brain's white matter, focusing on applications in neurodevelopment, aging, neurological disorders, mental disorders, and neurosurgery. We conclude that, while there have been considerable advancements in methodological technologies and breadth of applications, there nevertheless remains no consensus about the "best" methodology in quantitative analysis of tractography, and researchers should remain cautious when interpreting results in research and clinical applications.
INTRODUCTION: Disturbed sleep is a common feature of psychotic disorders that is also present in the clinical high risk (CHR) state. Evidence suggests a potential role of sleep disturbance in symptom progression, yet the interrelationship between sleep and CHR symptoms remains to be determined. To address this knowledge gap, we examined the association between disturbed sleep and CHR symptoms over time. METHODS: Data were obtained from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS)-3 consortium, including 688 CHR individuals and 94 controls (mean age 18.25, 46% female) for whom sleep was tracked prospectively for 8 months. We used Cox regression analyses to investigate whether sleep disturbances predicted conversion to psychosis up to >2 years later. With regressions and cross-lagged panel models, we analyzed longitudinal and bidirectional associations between sleep (the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index in conjunction with additional sleep items) and CHR symptoms. We also investigated the independent contribution of individual sleep characteristics on CHR symptom domains separately and explored whether cognitive impairments, stress, depression, and psychotropic medication affected the associations. RESULTS: Disturbed sleep at baseline did not predict conversion to psychosis. However, sleep disturbance was strongly correlated with heightened CHR symptoms over time. Depression accounted for half of the association between sleep and symptoms. Importantly, sleep was a significant predictor of CHR symptoms but not vice versa, although bidirectional effect sizes were similar. DISCUSSION: The critical role of sleep disturbance in CHR symptom changes suggests that sleep may be a promising intervention target to moderate outcome in the CHR state.
PURPOSE: To accelerate the acquisition of relaxation-diffusion imaging by integrating time-division multiplexing (TDM) with simultaneous multi-slice (SMS) for EPI and evaluate imaging quality and diffusion measures. METHODS: The time-division multiplexing (TDM) technique and SMS method were integrated to achieve a high slice-acceleration (e.g., 6×) factor for acquiring relaxation-diffusion MRI. Two variants of the sequence, referred to as TDM3e-SMS and TDM2s-SMS, were developed to simultaneously acquire slice groups with three distinct TEs and two slice groups with the same TE, respectively. Both sequences were evaluated on a 3T scanner with in vivo human brains and compared with standard single-band (SB) -EPI and SMS-EPI using diffusion measures and tractography results. RESULTS: Experimental results showed that the TDM3e-SMS sequence with total slice acceleration of 6 (multiplexing factor (MP) = 3 × multi-band factor (MB) = 2) provided similar image intensity and microstructure measures compared to standard SMS-EPI with MB = 2, and yielded less bias in intensity compared to standard SMS-EPI with MB = 4. The three sequences showed a similar positive correlation between TE and mean kurtosis (MK) and a negative correlation between TE and mean diffusivity (MD) in white matter. Multi-fiber tractography also shows consistency of results in TE-dependent measures between different sequences. The TDM2s-SMS sequence (MP = 2, MB = 2) also provided imaging measures similar to standard SMS-EPI sequences (MB = 2) for single-TE diffusion imaging. CONCLUSIONS: The TDM-SMS sequence can provide additional 2× to 3× acceleration to SMS without degrading imaging quality. With the significant reduction in scan time, TDM-SMS makes joint relaxation-diffusion MRI a feasible technique in neuroimaging research to investigate new markers of brain disorders.
BACKGROUND: Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is commonly used to detect prostate cancer, and a major clinical challenge is differentiating aggressive from indolent disease. PURPOSE: To compare 14 site-specific parametric fitting implementations applied to the same dataset of whole-mount pathologically validated DWI to test the hypothesis that cancer differentiation varies with different fitting algorithms. STUDY TYPE: Prospective. POPULATION: Thirty-three patients prospectively imaged prior to prostatectomy. FIELD STRENGTH/SEQUENCE: 3 T, field-of-view optimized and constrained undistorted single-shot DWI sequence. ASSESSMENT: Datasets, including a noise-free digital reference object (DRO), were distributed to the 14 teams, where locally implemented DWI parameter maps were calculated, including mono-exponential apparent diffusion coefficient (MEADC), kurtosis (K), diffusion kurtosis (DK), bi-exponential diffusion (BID), pseudo-diffusion (BID*), and perfusion fraction (F). The resulting parametric maps were centrally analyzed, where differentiation of benign from cancerous tissue was compared between DWI parameters and the fitting algorithms with a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve (ROC AUC). STATISTICAL TEST: Levene's test, P < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: The DRO results indicated minimal discordance between sites. Comparison across sites indicated that K, DK, and MEADC had significantly higher prostate cancer detection capability (AUC range = 0.72-0.76, 0.76-0.81, and 0.76-0.80 respectively) as compared to bi-exponential parameters (BID, BID*, F) which had lower AUC and greater between site variation (AUC range = 0.53-0.80, 0.51-0.81, and 0.52-0.80 respectively). Post-processing parameters also affected the resulting AUC, moving from, for example, 0.75 to 0.87 for MEADC varying cluster size. DATA CONCLUSION: We found that conventional diffusion models had consistent performance at differentiating prostate cancer from benign tissue. Our results also indicated that post-processing decisions on DWI data can affect sensitivity and specificity when applied to radiological-pathological studies in prostate cancer. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 1 TECHNICAL EFFICACY: Stage 3.
BACKGROUND: Preoperative radiological assessment of meningioma characteristics is of value for pre- and post-operative patient management, counselling, and surgical approach. PURPOSE: To investigate whether tensor-valued diffusion MRI can add to the preoperative prediction of meningioma consistency, grade and type. MATERIALS AND METHODS: 30 patients with intracranial meningiomas (22 WHO grade I, 8 WHO grade II) underwent MRI prior to surgery. Diffusion MRI was performed with linear and spherical b-tensors with b-values up to 2000 s/mm2. The data were used to estimate mean diffusivity (MD), fractional anisotropy (FA), mean kurtosis (MK) and its components-the anisotropic and isotropic kurtoses (MKA and MKI). Meningioma consistency was estimated for 16 patients during resection based on ultrasonic aspiration intensity, ease of resection with instrumentation or suction. Grade and type were determined by histopathological analysis. The relation between consistency, grade and type and dMRI parameters was analyzed inside the tumor ("whole-tumor") and within brain tissue in the immediate periphery outside the tumor ("rim") by histogram analysis. RESULTS: Lower 10th percentiles of MK and MKA in the whole-tumor were associated with firm consistency compared with pooled soft and variable consistency (n = 7 vs 9; U test, p = 0.02 for MKA 10 and p = 0.04 for MK10) and lower 10th percentile of MD with variable against soft and firm (n = 5 vs 11; U test, p = 0.02). Higher standard deviation of MKI in the rim was associated with lower grade (n = 22 vs 8; U test, p = 0.04) and in the MKI maps we observed elevated rim-like structure that could be associated with grade. Higher median MKA and lower median MKI distinguished psammomatous type from other pooled meningioma types (n = 5 vs 25; U test; p = 0.03 for MKA 50 and p = 0.03 and p = 0.04 for MKI 50). CONCLUSION: Parameters from tensor-valued dMRI can facilitate prediction of consistency, grade and type.
Recent developments in data science in general and machine learning in particular have transformed the way experts envision the future of surgery. Surgical Data Science (SDS) is a new research field that aims to improve the quality of interventional healthcare through the capture, organization, analysis and modeling of data. While an increasing number of data-driven approaches and clinical applications have been studied in the fields of radiological and clinical data science, translational success stories are still lacking in surgery. In this publication, we shed light on the underlying reasons and provide a roadmap for future advances in the field. Based on an international workshop involving leading researchers in the field of SDS, we review current practice, key achievements and initiatives as well as available standards and tools for a number of topics relevant to the field, namely (1) infrastructure for data acquisition, storage and access in the presence of regulatory constraints, (2) data annotation and sharing and (3) data analytics. We further complement this technical perspective with (4) a review of currently available SDS products and the translational progress from academia and (5) a roadmap for faster clinical translation and exploitation of the full potential of SDS, based on an international multi-round Delphi process.
PURPOSE: Fetal brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging suffers from unpredictable and unconstrained fetal motion that causes severe image artifacts even with half-Fourier single-shot fast spin echo (HASTE) readouts. This work presents the implementation of a closed-loop pipeline that automatically detects and reacquires HASTE images that were degraded by fetal motion without any human interaction. METHODS: A convolutional neural network that performs automatic image quality assessment (IQA) was run on an external GPU-equipped computer that was connected to the internal network of the MRI scanner. The modified HASTE pulse sequence sent each image to the external computer, where the IQA convolutional neural network evaluated it, and then the IQA score was sent back to the sequence. At the end of the HASTE stack, the IQA scores from all the slices were sorted, and only slices with the lowest scores (corresponding to the slices with worst image quality) were reacquired. RESULTS: The closed-loop HASTE acquisition framework was tested on 10 pregnant mothers, for a total of 73 acquisitions of our modified HASTE sequence. The IQA convolutional neural network, which was successfully employed by our modified sequence in real time, achieved an accuracy of 85.2% and area under the receiver operator characteristic of 0.899. CONCLUSION: The proposed acquisition/reconstruction pipeline was shown to successfully identify and automatically reacquire only the motion degraded fetal brain HASTE slices in the prescribed stack. This minimizes the overall time spent on HASTE acquisitions by avoiding the need to repeat the entire stack if only few slices in the stack are motion-degraded.
Language and theory of mind (ToM) are the cognitive capacities that allow for the successful interpretation and expression of meaning. While functional MRI investigations are able to consistently localize language and ToM to specific cortical regions, diffusion MRI investigations point to an inconsistent and sometimes overlapping set of white matter tracts associated with these two cognitive domains. To further examine the white matter tracts that may underlie these domains, we use a two-tensor tractography method to investigate the white matter microstructure of 809 participants from the Human Connectome Project. 20 association white matter tracts (10 in each hemisphere) are uniquely identified by leveraging a neuroanatomist-curated automated white matter tract atlas. The mean fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and number of streamlines (NoS) are measured for each white matter tract. Performance on neuropsychological assessments of semantic memory (NIH Toolbox Picture Vocabulary Test, TPVT) and emotion perception (Penn Emotion Recognition Test, PERT) are used to measure critical subcomponents of the language and ToM networks, respectively. Regression models are constructed to examine how structural measurements of left and right white matter tracts influence performance across these two assessments. We find that semantic memory performance is influenced by the number of streamlines of the left superior longitudinal fasciculus III (SLF-III), and emotion perception performance is influenced by the number of streamlines of the right SLF-III. Additionally, we find that performance on both semantic memory & emotion perception is influenced by the FA of the left arcuate fasciculus (AF). The results point to multiple, overlapping white matter tracts that underlie the cognitive domains of language and ToM. Results are discussed in terms of hemispheric dominance and concordance with prior investigations.
Little is known on how mild traumatic brain injury affects white matter based on age at injury, sex, cerebral microbleeds, and time since injury. Here, we study the fractional anisotropy of white matter to study these effects in 109 participants aged 18-77 (46 females, age μ ± σ = 40 ± 17 years) imaged within [Formula: see text] 1 week and [Formula: see text] 6 months post-injury. Age is found to be linearly associated with white matter degradation, likely due not only to injury but also to cumulative effects of other pathologies and to their interactions with injury. Age is associated with mean anisotropy decreases in the corpus callosum, middle longitudinal fasciculi, inferior longitudinal and occipitofrontal fasciculi, and superficial frontal and temporal fasciculi. Over [Formula: see text] 6 months, the mean anisotropies of the corpus callosum, left superficial frontal fasciculi, and left corticospinal tract decrease significantly. Independently of other predictors, age and cerebral microbleeds contribute to anisotropy decrease in the callosal genu. Chronically, the white matter of commissural tracts, left superficial frontal fasciculi, and left corticospinal tract degrade appreciably, independently of other predictors. Our findings suggest that large commissural and intra-hemispheric structures are at high risk for post-traumatic degradation. This study identifies detailed neuroanatomic substrates consistent with brain injury patients' age-dependent deficits in information processing speed, interhemispheric communication, motor coordination, visual acuity, sensory integration, reading speed/comprehension, executive function, personality, and memory. We also identify neuroanatomic features underlying white matter degradation whose severity is associated with the male sex. Future studies should compare our findings to functional measures and other neurodegenerative processes.
Tumour resection requires precise planning and navigation to maximise tumour removal while simultaneously protecting nearby healthy tissues. Neurosurgeons need to know the location of the remaining tumour after partial tumour removal before continuing with the resection. Our approach to the problem uses biomechanical modelling and computer simulation to compute the brain deformations after the tumour is resected. In this study, we use meshless Total Lagrangian explicit dynamics as the solver. The problem geometry is extracted from the patient-specific magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data and includes the parenchyma, tumour, cerebrospinal fluid and skull. The appropriate non-linear material formulation is used. Loading is performed by imposing intra-operative conditions of gravity and reaction forces between the tumour and surrounding healthy parenchyma tissues. A finite frictionless sliding contact is enforced between the skull (rigid) and parenchyma. The meshless simulation results are compared to intra-operative MRI sections. We also calculate Hausdorff distances between the computed deformed surfaces (ventricles and tumour cavities) and surfaces observed intra-operatively. Over 80% of points on the ventricle surface and 95% of points on the tumour cavity surface were successfully registered (results within the limits of two times the original in-plane resolution of the intra-operative image). Computed results demonstrate the potential for our method in estimating the tissue deformation and tumour boundary during the resection.
PURPOSE: Reperfusion therapy enables effective treatment of ischemic stroke presenting within 4-6 hours. However, tissue progression from ischemia to infarction is variable, and some patients benefit from treatment up until 24 hours. Improved imaging techniques are needed to identify these patients. Here, it was hypothesized that time dependence in diffusion MRI may predict tissue outcome in ischemic stroke. METHODS: Diffusion MRI data were acquired with multiple diffusion times in five non-reperfused patients at 2, 9, and 100 days after stroke onset. Maps of "rate of kurtosis change" (k), mean kurtosis, ADC, and fractional anisotropy were derived. The ADC maps defined lesions, normal-appearing tissue, and the lesion tissue that would either be infarcted or remain viable by day 100. Diffusion parameters were compared (1) between lesions and normal-appearing tissue, and (2) between lesion tissue that would be infarcted or remain viable. RESULTS: Positive values of k were observed within stroke lesions on day 2 (P = .001) and on day 9 (P = .023), indicating diffusional exchange. On day 100, high ADC values indicated infarction of 50 ± 20% of the lesion volumes. Tissue infarction was predicted by high k values both on day 2 (P = .026) and on day 9 (P = .046), by low mean kurtosis values on day 2 (P = .043), and by low fractional anisotropy values on day 9 (P = .029), but not by low ADC values. CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion time dependence predicted tissue outcome in ischemic stroke more accurately than the ADC, and may be useful for predicting reperfusion benefit.
In this work, we propose a theoretical framework based on maximum profile likelihood for pairwise and groupwise registration. By an asymptotic analysis, we demonstrate that maximum profile likelihood registration minimizes an upper bound on the joint entropy of the distribution that generates the joint image data. Further, we derive the congealing method for groupwise registration by optimizing the profile likelihood in closed form, and using coordinate ascent, or iterative model refinement. We also describe a method for feature based registration in the same framework and demonstrate it on groupwise tractographic registration. In the second part of the article, we propose an approach to deep metric registration that implements maximum likelihood registration using deep discriminative classifiers. We show further that this approach can be used for maximum profile likelihood registration to discharge the need for well-registered training data, using iterative model refinement. We demonstrate that the method succeeds on a challenging registration problem where the standard mutual information approach does not perform well.
Probing the cellular structure of in vivo biological tissue is a fundamental problem in biomedical imaging and medical science. This work introduces an approach for analyzing diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data acquired by the novel tensor-valued encoding technique for characterizing tissue microstructure. Our approach first uses a signal model to estimate the variance and skewness of the distribution of apparent diffusion tensors modeling the underlying tissue. Then several novel imaging indices, such as weighted microscopic anisotropy and microscopic skewness, are derived to characterize different ensembles of diffusion processes that are indistinguishable by existing techniques. The contributions of this work also include a theoretical proof that shows that, to estimate the skewness of a diffusion tensor distribution, the encoding protocol needs to include full-rank tensor diffusion encoding. This proof provides a guideline for the application of this technique. The properties of the proposed indices are illustrated using both synthetic data and in vivo data acquired from a human brain.
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.
PURPOSE: Diffusion-weighted MRI is sensitive to incoherent tissue motion, which may confound the measured signal and subsequent analysis. We propose a "motion-compensated" gradient waveform design for tensor-valued diffusion encoding that negates the effects bulk motion and incoherent motion in the ballistic regime. METHODS: Motion compensation was achieved by constraining the magnitude of gradient waveform moment vectors. The constraint was incorporated into a numerical optimization framework, along with existing constraints that account for b-tensor shape, hardware restrictions, and concomitant field gradients. We evaluated the efficacy of encoding and motion compensation in simulations, and we demonstrated the approach by linear and planar b-tensor encoding in a healthy heart in vivo. RESULTS: The optimization framework produced asymmetric motion-compensated waveforms that yielded b-tensors of arbitrary shape with improved efficiency compared with previous designs for tensor-valued encoding, and equivalent efficiency to previous designs for linear (conventional) encoding. Technical feasibility was demonstrated in the heart in vivo, showing vastly improved data quality when using motion compensation. The optimization framework is available online in open source. CONCLUSION: Our gradient waveform design is both more flexible and efficient than previous methods, facilitating tensor-valued diffusion encoding in tissues in which motion would otherwise confound the signal. The proposed design exploits asymmetric encoding times, a single refocusing pulse or multiple refocusing pulses, and integrates compensation for concomitant gradient effects throughout the imaging volume.
Diffusion MRI (dMRI) can probe the tissue microstructure but suffers from low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) whenever high resolution is combined with high diffusion encoding strengths. Low SNR leads to poor precision as well as poor accuracy of the diffusion-weighted signal; the latter is caused by the rectified noise floor and can be observed as a positive bias in magnitude signal. Super-resolution techniques may facilitate a beneficial tradeoff between bias and resolution by allowing acquisition at low spatial resolution and high SNR, whereafter high spatial resolution is recovered by image reconstruction. In this work, we describe a super-resolution reconstruction framework for dMRI and investigate its performance with respect to signal accuracy and precision. Using phantom experiments and numerical simulations, we show that the super-resolution approach improves accuracy by facilitating a more beneficial trade-off between spatial resolution and diffusion encoding strength before the noise floor affects the signal. By contrast, precision is shown to have a less straightforward dependency on acquisition, reconstruction, and intrinsic tissue parameters. Indeed, we find a gain in precision from super-resolution reconstruction is substantial only when some spatial resolution is sacrificed. Finally, we deployed super-resolution reconstruction in a healthy brain for the challenging combination of spherical b-tensor encoding at ultra-high b-values and high spatial resolution-a configuration that produces a unique contrast that emphasizes tissue in which diffusion is restricted in all directions. This demonstration showcased that super-resolution reconstruction enables a vastly superior image contrast compared to conventional imaging, facilitating investigations that would otherwise have prohibitively low SNR, resolution or require non-conventional MRI hardware.
Superagers are older adults who maintain youthful memory despite advanced age. Previous studies showed that superagers exhibit greater structural and intrinsic functional brain integrity, which contribute to their youthful memory. However, no studies, to date, have examined brain activity as superagers learn and remember novel information. Here, we analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging data collected from 41 young and 40 older adults while they performed a paired associate visual recognition memory task. Superaging was defined as youthful performance on the long delay free recall of the California Verbal Learning Test. We assessed the fidelity of neural representations as participants encoded and later retrieved a series of word stimuli paired with a face or a scene image. Superagers, like young adults, exhibited more distinct neural representations in the fusiform gyrus and parahippocampal gyrus while viewing visual stimuli belonging to different categories (greater neural differentiation) and more similar category representations between encoding and retrieval (greater neural reinstatement), compared with typical older adults. Greater neural differentiation and reinstatement were associated with superior memory performance in all older adults. Given that the fidelity of cortical sensory processing depends on neural plasticity and is trainable, these mechanisms may be potential biomarkers for future interventions to promote successful aging.
PURPOSE: Tensor-valued diffusion encoding provides more specific information than conventional diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), but has mainly been applied in neuroimaging studies. This study aimed to assess its potential for the imaging of prostate cancer (PCa). METHODS: Seventeen patients with histologically proven PCa were enrolled. DWI of the prostate was performed with linear and spherical tensor encoding using a maximal b-value of 1.5 ms/µm2 and a voxel size of 3 × 3 × 4 mm3 . The gamma-distribution model was used to estimate the mean diffusivity (MD), the isotropic kurtosis (MKI ), and the anisotropic kurtosis (MKA ). Regions of interest were placed in MR-defined cancerous tissues, as well as in apparently healthy tissues in the peripheral and transitional zones (PZs and TZs). RESULTS: DWI with linear and spherical encoding yielded different image contrasts at high b-values, which enabled the estimation of MKA and MKI . Compared with healthy tissue (PZs and TZs combined) the cancers displayed a significantly lower MD (P < .05), higher MKI (P < 10-5 ), and lower MKA (P < .05). Compared with the TZ, tissue in the PZ showed lower MD (P < 10-3 ) and higher MKA (P < 10-3 ). No significant differences were found between cancers of different Gleason scores, possibly because of the limited sample size. CONCLUSION: Tensor-valued diffusion encoding enabled mapping of MKA and MKI in the prostate. The elevated MKI in PCa compared with normal tissues suggests an elevated heterogeneity in the cancers. Increased in-plane resolution could improve tumor delineation in future studies.