Bergmann Ørjan, Henriques R, Westin CF, Pasternak O. Fast and Accurate Initialization of the Free-water Imaging Model Parameters from Multi-shell Diffusion MRI. NMR Biomed. 2020;33(3):e4219.

Cerebrospinal fluid partial volume effect is a known bias in the estimation of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) parameters from diffusion MRI data. The Free-Water Imaging model for diffusion MRI data adds a second compartment to the DTI model, which explicitly accounts for the signal contribution of extracellular free-water, such as cerebrospinal fluid. As a result the DTI parameters obtained through the free-water model are corrected for partial volume effects, and thus better represent tissue microstructure. In addition, the model estimates the fractional volume of free-water, and can be used to monitor changes in the extracellular space. Under certain assumptions, the model can be estimated from single-shell diffusion MRI data. However, by using data from multi-shell diffusion acquisitions, these assumptions can be relaxed, and the fit becomes more robust. Nevertheless, fitting the model to multi-shell data requires high computational cost, with a non-linear iterative minimization, which has to be initialized close enough to the global minimum to avoid local minima and to robustly estimate the model parameters. Here we investigate the properties of the main initialization approaches that are currently being used, and suggest new fast approaches to improve the initial estimates of the model parameters. We show that our proposed approaches provide a fast and accurate initial approximation of the model parameters, which is very close to the final solution. We demonstrate that the proposed initializations improve the final outcome of non-linear model fitting.

Epprecht L, Qureshi A, Kozin ED, Vachicouras N, Huber AM, Kikinis R, Makris N, Brown C, Reinshagen KL, Lee DJ. Human Cochlear Nucleus on 7 Tesla Diffusion Tensor Imaging: Insights Into Micro-anatomy and Function for Auditory Brainstem Implant Surgery. Otol Neurotol. 2020;41(4):e484-e493.

OBJECTIVE: The cochlear nucleus (CN) is the target of the auditory brainstem implant (ABI). Most ABI candidates have Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) and distorted brainstem anatomy from bilateral vestibular schwannomas. The CN is difficult to characterize as routine structural MRI does not resolve detailed anatomy. We hypothesize that diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) enables both in vivo localization and quantitative measurements of CN morphology. STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed 7 Tesla (T) DTI images of 100 subjects (200 CN) and relevant anatomic structures using an MRI brainstem atlas with submillimetric (50 μm) resolution. SETTING: Tertiary referral center. PATIENTS: Young healthy normal hearing adults. INTERVENTION: Diagnostic. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Diffusion scalar measures such as fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), mode of anisotropy (Mode), principal eigenvectors of the CN, and the adjacent inferior cerebellar peduncle (ICP). RESULTS: The CN had a lamellar structure and ventral-dorsal fiber orientation and could be localized lateral to the inferior cerebellar peduncle (ICP). This fiber orientation was orthogonal to tracts of the adjacent ICP where the fibers run mainly caudal-rostrally. The CN had lower FA compared to the medial aspect of the ICP (0.44 ± 0.09 vs. 0.64 ± 0.08, p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: 7T DTI enables characterization of human CN morphology and neuronal substructure. An ABI array insertion vector directed more caudally would better correspond to the main fiber axis of CN. State-of-the-art DTI has implications for ABI preoperative planning and future image guidance-assisted placement of the electrode array.

Turk EA, Abulnaga M, Luo J, Stout JN, Feldman HA, Turk A, Gagoski B, Wald LL, Adalsteinsson E, Roberts DJ, Bibbo C, Robinson JN, Golland P, Grant E, Barth WH. Placental MRI: Effect of Maternal Position and Uterine Contractions on Placental BOLD MRI Measurements. Placenta. 2020;95:69–77.

INTRODUCTION: Before using blood-oxygen-level-dependent magnetic resonance imaging (BOLD MRI) during maternal hyperoxia as a method to detect individual placental dysfunction, it is necessary to understand spatiotemporal variations that represent normal placental function. We investigated the effect of maternal position and Braxton-Hicks contractions on estimates obtained from BOLD MRI of the placenta during maternal hyperoxia. METHODS: For 24 uncomplicated singleton pregnancies (gestational age 27-36 weeks), two separate BOLD MRI datasets were acquired, one in the supine and one in the left lateral maternal position. The maternal oxygenation was adjusted as 5 min of room air (21% O), followed by 5 min of 100% FiO. After datasets were corrected for signal non-uniformities and motion, global and regional BOLD signal changes in R* and voxel-wise Time-To-Plateau (TTP) in the placenta were measured. The overall placental and uterine volume changes were determined across time to detect contractions. RESULTS: In mothers without contractions, increases in global placental R* in the supine position were larger compared to the left lateral position with maternal hyperoxia. Maternal position did not alter global TTP but did result in regional changes in TTP. 57% of the subjects had Braxton-Hicks contractions and 58% of these had global placental R* decreases during the contraction. CONCLUSION: Both maternal position and Braxton-Hicks contractions significantly affect global and regional changes in placental R* and regional TTP. This suggests that both factors must be taken into account in analyses when comparing placental BOLD signals over time within and between individuals.

Levitt JJ, Nestor PG, Kubicki M, Lyall AE, Zhang F, Riklin-Raviv T, Donnell LJO, McCarley RW, Shenton ME, Rathi Y. Miswiring of Frontostriatal Projections in Schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull. 2020;46(4):990–8.

We investigated brain wiring in chronic schizophrenia and healthy controls in frontostriatal circuits using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging tractography in a novel way. We extracted diffusion streamlines in 27 chronic schizophrenia and 26 healthy controls connecting 4 frontal subregions to the striatum. We labeled the projection zone striatal surface voxels into 2 subtypes: dominant-input from a single cortical subregion, and, functionally integrative, with mixed-input from diverse cortical subregions. We showed: 1) a group difference for total striatal surface voxel number (P = .045) driven by fewer mixed-input voxels in the left (P = .007), but not right, hemisphere; 2) a group by hemisphere interaction for the ratio quotient between voxel subtypes (P = .04) with a left (P = .006), but not right, hemisphere increase in schizophrenia, also reflecting fewer mixed-input voxels; and 3) fewer mixed-input voxel counts in schizophrenia (P = .045) driven by differences in left hemisphere limbic (P = .007) and associative (P = .01), but not sensorimotor, striatum. These results demonstrate a less integrative pattern of frontostriatal structural connectivity in chronic schizophrenia. A diminished integrative pattern yields a less complex input pattern to the striatum from the cortex with less circuit integration at the level of the striatum. Further, as brain wiring occurs during early development, aberrant brain wiring could serve as a developmental biomarker for schizophrenia.

Ning L, Gagoski B, Szczepankiewicz F, Westin CF, Rathi Y. Joint RElaxation-Diffusion Imaging Moments to Probe Neurite Microstructure. IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2020;39(3):668–77.

Joint relaxation-diffusion measurements can provide new insight about the tissue microstructural properties. Most recent methods have focused on inverting the Laplace transform to recover the joint distribution of relaxation-diffusion. However, as is well-known, this problem is notoriously ill-posed and numerically unstable. In this work, we address this issue by directly computing the joint moments of transverse relaxation rate and diffusivity, which can be robustly estimated. To zoom into different parts of the joint distribution, we further enhance our method by applying multiplicative filters to the joint probability density function of relaxation and diffusion and compute the corresponding moments. We propose an approach to use these moments to compute several novel scalar indices to characterize specific properties of the underlying tissue microstructure. Furthermore, for the first time, we propose an algorithm to estimate diffusion signals that are independent of echo time based on the moments of the marginal probability density function of diffusion. We demonstrate its utility in extracting tissue information not contaminated with multiple intra-voxel relaxation rates. We compare the performance of four types of filters that zoom into tissue components with different relaxation and diffusion properties and demonstrate it on an in-vivo human dataset. Experimental results show that these filters are able to characterize heterogeneous tissue microstructure. Moreover, the filtered diffusion signals are also able to distinguish fiber bundles with similar orientations but different relaxation rates. The proposed method thus allows to characterize the neural microstructure information in a robust and unique manner not possible using existing techniques.

Zhang F, Noh T, Juvekar P, Frisken SF, Rigolo L, Norton I, Kapur T, Pujol S, Wells W, Yarmarkovich A, Kindlmann G, Wassermann D, Estepar RSJ, Rathi Y, Kikinis R, Johnson HJ, Westin CF, Pieper S, Golby AJ, Donnell LJO. SlicerDMRI: Diffusion MRI and Tractography Research Software for Brain Cancer Surgery Planning and Visualization. JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2020;4:299–309.

PURPOSE: We present SlicerDMRI, an open-source software suite that enables research using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI), the only modality that can map the white matter connections of the living human brain. SlicerDMRI enables analysis and visualization of dMRI data and is aimed at the needs of clinical research users. SlicerDMRI is built upon and deeply integrated with 3D Slicer, a National Institutes of Health-supported open-source platform for medical image informatics, image processing, and three-dimensional visualization. Integration with 3D Slicer provides many features of interest to cancer researchers, such as real-time integration with neuronavigation equipment, intraoperative imaging modalities, and multimodal data fusion. One key application of SlicerDMRI is in neurosurgery research, where brain mapping using dMRI can provide patient-specific maps of critical brain connections as well as insight into the tissue microstructure that surrounds brain tumors. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In this article, we focus on a demonstration of SlicerDMRI as an informatics tool to enable end-to-end dMRI analyses in two retrospective imaging data sets from patients with high-grade glioma. Analyses demonstrated here include conventional diffusion tensor analysis, advanced multifiber tractography, automated identification of critical fiber tracts, and integration of multimodal imagery with dMRI. RESULTS: We illustrate the ability of SlicerDMRI to perform both conventional and advanced dMRI analyses as well as to enable multimodal image analysis and visualization. We provide an overview of the clinical rationale for each analysis along with pointers to the SlicerDMRI tools used in each. CONCLUSION: SlicerDMRI provides open-source and clinician-accessible research software tools for dMRI analysis. SlicerDMRI is available for easy automated installation through the 3D Slicer Extension Manager.

Zhang F, Karayumak SC, Hoffmann N, Rathi Y, Golby AJ, Donnell LJO. Deep White Matter Analysis (DeepWMA): Fast and Consistent Tractography Segmentation. Med Image Anal. 2020;65:101761.

White matter tract segmentation, i.e. identifying tractography fibers (streamline trajectories) belonging to anatomically meaningful fiber tracts, is an essential step to enable tract quantification and visualization. In this study, we present a deep learning tractography segmentation method (DeepWMA) that allows fast and consistent identification of 54 major deep white matter fiber tracts from the whole brain. We create a large-scale training tractography dataset of 1 million labeled fiber samples, and we propose a novel 2D multi-channel feature descriptor (FiberMap) that encodes spatial coordinates of points along each fiber. We learn a convolutional neural network (CNN) fiber classification model based on FiberMap and obtain a high fiber classification accuracy of 90.99% on the training tractography data with ground truth fiber labels. Then, the method is evaluated on a test dataset of 597 diffusion MRI scans from six independently acquired populations across genders, the lifespan (1 day - 82 years), and different health conditions (healthy control, neuropsychiatric disorders, and brain tumor patients). We perform comparisons with two state-of-the-art tract segmentation methods. Experimental results show that our method obtains a highly consistent tract segmentation result, where on average over 99% of the fiber tracts are successfully identified across all subjects under study, most importantly, including neonates and patients with space-occupying brain tumors. We also demonstrate good generalization of the method to tractography data from multiple different fiber tracking methods. The proposed method leverages deep learning techniques and provides a fast and efficient tool for brain white matter segmentation in large diffusion MRI tractography datasets.

Canalini L, Klein J, Miller D, Kikinis R. Enhanced Registration of Ultrasound Volumes by Segmentation of Resection Cavity in Neurosurgical Procedures. Int J Comput Assist Radiol Surg. 2020;15(13):1963–74.

PURPOSE: Neurosurgeons can have a better understanding of surgical procedures by comparing ultrasound images obtained at different phases of the tumor resection. However, establishing a direct mapping between subsequent acquisitions is challenging due to the anatomical changes happening during surgery. We propose here a method to improve the registration of ultrasound volumes, by excluding the resection cavity from the registration process. METHODS: The first step of our approach includes the automatic segmentation of the resection cavities in ultrasound volumes, acquired during and after resection. We used a convolution neural network inspired by the 3D U-Net. Then, subsequent ultrasound volumes are registered by excluding the contribution of resection cavity. RESULTS: Regarding the segmentation of the resection cavity, the proposed method achieved a mean DICE index of 0.84 on 27 volumes. Concerning the registration of the subsequent ultrasound acquisitions, we reduced the mTRE of the volumes acquired before and during resection from 3.49 to 1.22 mm. For the set of volumes acquired before and after removal, the mTRE improved from 3.55 to 1.21 mm. CONCLUSIONS: We proposed an innovative registration algorithm to compensate the brain shift affecting ultrasound volumes obtained at subsequent phases of neurosurgical procedures. To the best of our knowledge, our method is the first to exclude automatically segmented resection cavities in the registration of ultrasound volumes in neurosurgery.

Rushmore RJ, Wilson-Braun P, Papadimitriou G, Ng I, Rathi Y, Zhang F, Donnell LJO, Kubicki M, Bouix S, Yeterian E, Lemaire JJ, Calabrese E, Johnson A, Kikinis R, Makris N. 3D Exploration of the Brainstem in 50-Micron Resolution MRI. Front Neuroanat. 2020;14:40.

The brainstem, a structure of vital importance in mammals, is currently becoming a principal focus in cognitive, affective, and clinical neuroscience. Midbrain, pontine and medullary structures serve as the conduit for signals between the forebrain and spinal cord, are the epicenter of cranial nerve-circuits and systems, and subserve such integrative functions as consciousness, emotional processing, pain, and motivation. In this study, we parcellated the nuclear masses and the principal fiber pathways that were visible in a high-resolution T2-weighted MRI dataset of 50-micron isotropic voxels of a postmortem human brainstem. Based on this analysis, we generated a detailed map of the human brainstem. To assess the validity of our maps, we compared our observations with histological maps of traditional human brainstem atlases. Given the unique capability of MRI-based morphometric analysis in generating and preserving the morphology of 3D objects from individual 2D sections, we reconstructed the motor, sensory and integrative neural systems of the brainstem and rendered them in 3D representations. We anticipate the utilization of these maps by the neuroimaging community for applications in basic neuroscience as well as in neurology, psychiatry, and neurosurgery, due to their versatile computational nature in 2D and 3D representations in a publicly available capacity.

Nenning KH, Furtner J, Kiesel B, Schwartz E, Roetzer T, Fortelny N, Bock C, Grisold A, Marko M, Leutmezer F, Liu H, Golland P, Stoecklein S, Hainfellner JA, Kasprian G, Prayer D, Marosi C, Widhalm G, Woehrer A, Langs G. Distributed Changes of the Functional Connectome in Patients with Glioblastoma. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):18312.

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.