We offer a blazingly brief review of evolution of shape analysis methods in medical imaging. As the representations and the statistical models grew more sophisticated, the problem of shape analysis has been gradually redefined to accept images rather than binary segmentations as a starting point. This transformation enabled shape analysis to take its rightful place in the arsenal of tools for extracting and understanding patterns in large clinical image sets. We speculate on the future developments in shape analysis and potential applications that would bring this mathematically rich area to bear on clinical practice.
We have developed a novel method to describe human white matter anatomy using an approach that is both intuitive and simple to use, and which automatically extracts white matter tracts from diffusion MRI volumes. Further, our method simplifies the quantification and statistical analysis of white matter tracts on large diffusion MRI databases. This work reflects the careful syntactical definition of major white matter fiber tracts in the human brain based on a neuroanatomist’s expert knowledge. The framework is based on a novel query language with a near-to-English textual syntax. This query language makes it possible to construct a dictionary of anatomical definitions that describe white matter tracts. The definitions include adjacent gray and white matter regions, and rules for spatial relations. This novel method makes it possible to automatically label white matter anatomy across subjects. After describing this method, we provide an example of its implementation where we encode anatomical knowledge in human white matter for ten association and 15 projection tracts per hemisphere, along with seven commissural tracts. Importantly, this novel method is comparable in accuracy to manual labeling. Finally, we present results applying this method to create a white matter atlas from 77 healthy subjects, and we use this atlas in a small proof-of-concept study to detect changes in association tracts that characterize schizophrenia.
We propose a unified Bayesian framework for detecting genetic variants associated with disease by exploiting image-based features as an intermediate phenotype. The use of imaging data for examining genetic associations promises new directions of analysis, but currently the most widely used methods make sub-optimal use of the richness that these data types can offer. Currently, image features are most commonly selected based on their relevance to the disease phenotype. Then, in a separate step, a set of genetic variants is identified to explain the selected features. In contrast, our method performs these tasks simultaneously in order to jointly exploit information in both data types. The analysis yields probabilistic measures of clinical relevance for both imaging and genetic markers. We derive an efficient approximate inference algorithm that handles the high dimensionality of image and genetic data. We evaluate the algorithm on synthetic data and demonstrate that it outperforms traditional models. We also illustrate our method on Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative data.
This work describes a new diffusion MR framework for imaging and modeling of microstructure that we call q-space trajectory imaging (QTI). The QTI framework consists of two parts: encoding and modeling. First we propose q-space trajectory encoding, which uses time-varying gradients to probe a trajectory in q-space, in contrast to traditional pulsed field gradient sequences that attempt to probe a point in q-space. Then we propose a microstructure model, the diffusion tensor distribution (DTD) model, which takes advantage of additional information provided by QTI to estimate a distributional model over diffusion tensors. We show that the QTI framework enables microstructure modeling that is not possible with the traditional pulsed gradient encoding as introduced by Stejskal and Tanner. In our analysis of QTI, we find that the well-known scalar b-value naturally extends to a tensor-valued entity, i.e., a diffusion measurement tensor, which we call the b-tensor. We show that b-tensors of rank 2 or 3 enable estimation of the mean and covariance of the DTD model in terms of a second order tensor (the diffusion tensor) and a fourth order tensor. The QTI framework has been designed to improve discrimination of the sizes, shapes, and orientations of diffusion microenvironments within tissue. We derive rotationally invariant scalar quantities describing intuitive microstructural features including size, shape, and orientation coherence measures. To demonstrate the feasibility of QTI on a clinical scanner, we performed a small pilot study comparing a group of five healthy controls with five patients with schizophrenia. The parameter maps derived from QTI were compared between the groups, and 9 out of the 14 parameters investigated showed differences between groups. The ability to measure and model the distribution of diffusion tensors, rather than a quantity that has already been averaged within a voxel, has the potential to provide a powerful paradigm for the study of complex tissue architecture.
The National Alliance for Medical Image Computing (NA-MIC) was launched in 2004 with the goal of investigating and developing an open source software infrastructure for the extraction of information and knowledge from medical images using computational methods. Several leading research and engineering groups participated in this effort that was funded by the US National Institutes of Health through a variety of infrastructure grants. This effort transformed 3D Slicer from an internal, Boston-based, academic research software application into a professionally maintained, robust, open source platform with an international leadership and developer and user communities. Critical improvements to the widely used underlying open source libraries and tools-VTK, ITK, CMake, CDash, DCMTK-were an additional consequence of this effort. This project has contributed to close to a thousand peer-reviewed publications and a growing portfolio of US and international funded efforts expanding the use of these tools in new medical computing applications every year. In this editorial, we discuss what we believe are gaps in the way medical image computing is pursued today; how a well-executed research platform can enable discovery, innovation and reproducible science ("Open Science"); and how our quest to build such a software platform has evolved into a productive and rewarding social engineering exercise in building an open-access community with a shared vision.