Dalca AV, Sridharan R, Cloonan L, Fitzpatrick KM, Kanakis A, Furie KL, Rosand J, Wu O, Sabuncu M, Rost NS, Golland P. Segmentation 0f Cerebrovascular Pathologies in Stroke Patients with Spatial and Shape Priors. Med Image Comput Comput Assist Interv. 2014;17(Pt 2):773–80.

We propose and demonstrate an inference algorithm for the automatic segmentation of cerebrovascular pathologies in clinical MR images of the brain. Identifying and differentiating pathologies is important for understanding the underlying mechanisms and clinical outcomes of cerebral ischemia. Manual delineation of separate pathologies is infeasible in large studies of stroke that include thousands of patients. Unlike normal brain tissues and structures, the location and shape of the lesions vary across patients, presenting serious challenges for prior-driven segmentation. Our generative model captures spatial patterns and intensity properties associated with different cerebrovascular pathologies in stroke patients. We demonstrate the resulting segmentation algorithm on clinical images of a stroke patient cohort.

Knutsson H, Westin CF. From Expected Propagator Distribution to Optimal Q-Space Sample Metric. Med Image Comput Comput Assist Interv. 2014;17(Pt 3):217–24.

We present a novel approach to determine a local q-space metric that is optimal from an information theoreticperspective with respect to the expected signal statistics. It should be noted that the approach does not attempt to optimize the quality of a pre-defined mathematical representation, the estimator. In contrast, our suggestion aims at obtaining the maximum amount of information without enforcing a particular feature representation. Results for three significantly different average propagator distributions are presented. The results show that the optimal q-space metric has a strong dependence on the assumed distribution in the targeted tissue. In many practical cases educated guesses can be made regarding the average propagator distribution present. In such cases the presented analysis can produce a metric that is optimal with respect to this distribution. The metric will be different at different q-space locations and is defined by the amount of additional information that is obtained when adding a second sample at a given offset from a first sample. The intention is to use the obtained metric as a guide for the generation of specific efficient q-space sample distributions for the targeted tissue.

Westin CF, Szczepankiewicz F, Pasternak O, Özarslan E, Topgaard D, Knutsson H, Nilsson M. Measurement Tensors in Diffusion MRI: Generalizing the Concept of Diffusion Encoding. Med Image Comput Comput Assist Interv. 2014;17(Pt 3):209–16.

In traditional diffusion MRI, short pulsed field gradients (PFG) are used for the diffusion encoding. The standard Stejskal-Tanner sequence uses one single pair of such gradients, known as single-PFG (sPFG). In this work we describe how trajectories in q-space can be used for diffusion encoding. We discuss how such encoding enables the extension of the well-known scalar b-value to a tensor-valued entity we call the diffusion measurement tensor. The new measurements contain information about higher order diffusion propagator covariances not present in sPFG. As an example analysis, we use this new information to estimate a Gaussian distribution over diffusion tensors in each voxel, described by its mean (a diffusion tensor) and its covariance (a 4th order tensor).

Savadjiev P, Rathi Y, Bouix S, Smith AR, Schultz RT, Verma R, Westin CF. Fusion of White and Gray Matter Geometry: A Framework for Investigating Brain Development. Med Image Anal. 2014;18(8):1349–60.

Current neuroimaging investigation of the white matter typically focuses on measurements derived from diffusion tensor imaging, such as fractional anisotropy (FA). In contrast, imaging studies of the gray matter oftentimes focus on morphological features such as cortical thickness, folding and surface curvature. As a result, it is not clear how to combine findings from these two types of approaches in order to obtain a consistent picture of morphological changes in both gray and white matter. In this paper, we propose a joint investigation of gray and white matter morphology by combining geometrical information from white and the gray matter. To achieve this, we first introduce a novel method for computing multi-scale white matter tract geometry. Its formulation is based on the differential geometry of curve sets and is easily incorporated into a continuous scale-space framework. We then incorporate this method into a novel framework for "fusing" white and gray matter geometrical information. Given a set of fiber tracts originating in a particular cortical region, the key idea is to compute two scalar fields that represent geometrical characteristics of the white matter and of the surface of the cortical region. A quantitative marker is created by combining the distributions of these scalar values using Mutual Information. This marker can be then used in the study of normal and pathological brain structure and development. We apply this framework to a study on autism spectrum disorder in children. Our preliminary results support the view that autism may be characterized by early brain overgrowth, followed by reduced or arrested growth (Courchesne, 2004).

Langs G, Sweet A, Lashkari D, Tie Y, Rigolo L, Golby AJ, Golland P. Decoupling Function and Anatomy in Atlases of Functional Connectivity Patterns: Language Mapping in Tumor Patients. Neuroimage. 2014;103:462–75.

In this paper we construct an atlas that summarizes functional connectivity characteristics of a cognitive process from a population of individuals. The atlas encodes functional connectivity structure in a low-dimensional embedding space that is derived from a diffusion process on a graph that represents correlations of fMRI time courses. The functional atlas is decoupled from the anatomical space, and thus can represent functional networks with variable spatial distribution in a population. In practice the atlas is represented by a common prior distribution for the embedded fMRI signals of all subjects. We derive an algorithm for fitting this generative model to the observed data in a population. Our results in a language fMRI study demonstrate that the method identifies coherent and functionally equivalent regions across subjects. The method also successfully maps functional networks from a healthy population used as a training set to individuals whose language networks are affected by tumors.

Rathi Y, Michailovich O, Laun F, Setsompop K, Grant PE, Westin CF. Multi-shell Diffusion Signal Recovery from Sparse Measurements. Med Image Anal. 2014;18(7):1143–56.

For accurate estimation of the ensemble average diffusion propagator (EAP), traditional multi-shell diffusion imaging (MSDI) approaches require acquisition of diffusion signals for a range of b-values. However, this makes the acquisition time too long for several types of patients, making it difficult to use in a clinical setting. In this work, we propose a new method for the reconstruction of diffusion signals in the entire q-space from highly undersampled sets of MSDI data, thus reducing the scan time significantly. In particular, to sparsely represent the diffusion signal over multiple q-shells, we propose a novel extension to the framework of spherical ridgelets by accurately modeling the monotonically decreasing radial component of the diffusion signal. Further, we enforce the reconstructed signal to have smooth spatial regularity in the brain, by minimizing the total variation (TV) norm. We combine these requirements into a novel cost function and derive an optimal solution using the Alternating Directions Method of Multipliers (ADMM) algorithm. We use a physical phantom data set with known fiber crossing angle of 45° to determine the optimal number of measurements (gradient directions and b-values) needed for accurate signal recovery. We compare our technique with a state-of-the-art sparse reconstruction method (i.e., the SHORE method of Cheng et al. (2010)) in terms of angular error in estimating the crossing angle, incorrect number of peaks detected, normalized mean squared error in signal recovery as well as error in estimating the return-to-origin probability (RTOP). Finally, we also demonstrate the behavior of the proposed technique on human in vivo data sets. Based on these experiments, we conclude that using the proposed algorithm, at least 60 measurements (spread over three b-value shells) are needed for proper recovery of MSDI data in the entire q-space.

Woolgar A, Golland P, Bode S. Coping With Confounds in Multivoxel Pattern Analysis: What Should We Do About Reaction Time Differences? A Comment On Todd, Nystrom & Cohen 2013. Neuroimage. 2014;98:506–12.

Multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) is a sensitive and increasingly popular method for examining differences between neural activation patterns that cannot be detected using classical mass-univariate analysis. Recently, Todd et al. ("Confounds in multivariate pattern analysis: Theory and rule representation case study", 2013, NeuroImage 77: 157-165) highlighted a potential problem for these methods: high sensitivity to confounds at the level of individual participants due to the use of directionless summary statistics. Unlike traditional mass-univariate analyses where confounding activation differences in opposite directions tend to approximately average out at group level, group level MVPA results may be driven by any activation differences that can be discriminated in individual participants. In Todd et al.’s empirical data, factoring out differences in reaction time (RT) reduced a classifier’s ability to distinguish patterns of activation pertaining to two task rules. This raises two significant questions for the field: to what extent have previous multivoxel discriminations in the literature been driven by RT differences, and by what methods should future studies take RT and other confounds into account? We build on the work of Todd et al. and compare two different approaches to remove the effect of RT in MVPA. We show that in our empirical data, in contrast to that of Todd et al., the effect of RT on rule decoding is negligible, and results were not affected by the specific details of RT modelling. We discuss the meaning of and sensitivity for confounds in traditional and multivoxel approaches to fMRI analysis. We observe that the increased sensitivity of MVPA comes at a price of reduced specificity, meaning that these methods in particular call for careful consideration of what differs between our conditions of interest. We conclude that the additional complexity of the experimental design, analysis and interpretation needed for MVPA is still not a reason to favour a less sensitive approach.

Preti MG, Makris N, Papadimitriou G, Laganà MM, Griffanti L, Clerici M, Nemni R, Westin CF, Baselli G, Baglio F. A Novel Approach of Groupwise fMRI-Guided Tractography Allowing to Characterize the Clinical Evolution of Alzheimer’s Disease. PLoS One. 2014;9(3):e92026.

Guiding diffusion tract-based anatomy by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we aim to investigate the relationship between structural connectivity and functional activity in the human brain. To this purpose, we introduced a novel groupwise fMRI-guided tractographic approach, that was applied on a population ranging between prodromic and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study comprised of 15 subjects affected by amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), 14 diagnosed with AD and 14 elderly healthy adults who were used as controls. By creating representative (ensemble) functionally guided tracts within each group of participants, our methodology highlighted the white matter fiber connections involved in verbal fluency functions for a specific population, and hypothesized on brain compensation mechanisms that potentially counteract or reduce cognitive impairment symptoms in prodromic AD. Our hope is that this fMRI-guided tractographic approach could have potential impact in various clinical studies, while investigating white/gray matter connectivity, in both health and disease.

Fedorov A, Wells WM III, Kikinis R, Tempany CM, Vangel MG. Application of Tolerance Limits to the Characterization of Image Registration Performance. IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2014;33(7):1541–50.

Deformable image registration is used increasingly in image-guided interventions and other applications. However, validation and characterization of registration performance remain areas that require further study. We propose an analysis methodology for deriving tolerance limits on the initial conditions for deformable registration that reliably lead to a successful registration. This approach results in a concise summary of the probability of registration failure, while accounting for the variability in the test data. The (β, γ) tolerance limit can be interpreted as a value of the input parameter that leads to successful registration outcome in at least 100β% of cases with the 100γ% confidence. The utility of the methodology is illustrated by summarizing the performance of a deformable registration algorithm evaluated in three different experimental setups of increasing complexity. Our examples are based on clinical data collected during MRI-guided prostate biopsy registered using publicly available deformable registration tool. The results indicate that the proposed methodology can be used to generate concise graphical summaries of the experiments, as well as a probabilistic estimate of the registration outcome for a future sample. Its use may facilitate improved objective assessment, comparison and retrospective stress-testing of deformable.