OBJECTIVE: We introduce descriptor-based segmentation that extends existing patch-based methods by combining intensities, features, and location information. Since it is unclear which image features are best suited for patch selection, we perform a broad empirical study on a multitude of different features. METHODS: We extend nonlocal means segmentation by including image features and location information. We search larger windows with an efficient nearest neighbor search based on kd-trees. We compare a large number of image features. RESULTS: The best results were obtained for entropy image features, which have not yet been used for patch-based segmentation. We further show that searching larger image regions with an approximate nearest neighbor search and location information yields a significant improvement over the bounded nearest neighbor search traditionally employed in patch-based segmentation methods. CONCLUSION: Features and location information significantly increase the segmentation accuracy. The best features highlight boundaries in the image. SIGNIFICANCE: Our detailed analysis of several aspects of nonlocal means-based segmentation yields new insights about patch and neighborhood sizes together with the inclusion of location information. The presented approach advances the state-of-the-art in the segmentation of parotid glands for radiation therapy planning.
This paper presents an efficient algorithm for large deformation diffeomorphic metric mapping (LDDMM) with geodesic shooting for image registration. We introduce a novel finite dimensional Fourier representation of diffeomorphic deformations based on the key fact that the high frequency components of a diffeomorphism remain stationary throughout the integration process when computing the deformation associated with smooth velocity fields. We show that manipulating high dimensional diffeomorphisms can be carried out entirely in the bandlimited space by integrating the nonstationary low frequency components of the displacement field. This insight substantially reduces the computational cost of the registration problem. Experimental results show that our method is significantly faster than the state-of-the-art diffeomorphic image registration methods while producing equally accurate alignment. We demonstrate our algorithm in two different applications of image registration: neuroimaging and in-utero imaging.
The neural correlates of spaceflight-induced sensorimotor impairments are unknown. Head down-tilt bed rest (HDBR) serves as a microgravity analog because it mimics the headward fluid shift and axial body unloading of spaceflight. We investigated focal brain white matter (WM) changes and fluid shifts during 70 days of 6° HDBR in 16 subjects who were assessed pre (2x), during (3x), and post-HDBR (2x). Changes over time were compared to those in control subjects (n = 12) assessed four times over 90 days. Diffusion MRI was used to assess WM microstructure and fluid shifts. Free-Water Imaging was used to quantify distribution of intracranial extracellular free water (FW). Additionally, we tested whether WM and FW changes correlated with changes in functional mobility and balance measures. HDBR resulted in FW increases in fronto-temporal regions and decreases in posterior-parietal regions that largely recovered by two weeks post-HDBR. WM microstructure was unaffected by HDBR. FW decreases in the post-central gyrus and precuneus correlated negatively with balance changes. We previously reported that gray matter increases in these regions were associated with less HDBR-induced balance impairment, suggesting adaptive structural neuroplasticity. Future studies are warranted to determine causality and underlying mechanisms.
We propose a non-parametric approach for characterizing heterogeneous diseases in large-scale studies. We target diseases where multiple types of pathology present simultaneously in each subject and a more severe disease manifests as a higher level of tissue destruction. For each subject, we model theof local image descriptors as samples generated by an unknown subject-specific probability density. Instead of approximating the probability density via a parametric family, we propose to side step the parametric inference by directly estimating the divergence between subject densities. Our method maps the collection of local image descriptors to a signaturethat is used to predict a clinical measurement. We are able to interpret the prediction of the clinical variable in the population and individual levels by carefully studying the divergences. We illustrate an application this method on simulated data as well as on a large-scale lung CT study of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Our approach outperforms classical methods on both simulated and COPD data and demonstrates the state-of-the-art prediction on an important physiologic measure of airflow (the forced respiratory volume in one second, FEV1).
Diffusion MRI tractography is increasingly used in pre-operative neurosurgical planning to visualize critical fiber tracts. However, a major challenge for conventional tractography, especially in patients with brain tumors, is tracing fiber tracts that are affected by vasogenic edema, which increases water content in the tissue and lowers diffusion anisotropy. One strategy for improving fiber tracking is to use a tractography method that is more sensitive than the traditional single-tensor streamline tractography. We performed experiments to assess the performance of two-tensor unscented Kalman filter (UKF) tractography in edema. UKF tractography fits a diffusion model to the data during fiber tracking, taking advantage of prior information from the previous step along the fiber. We studied UKF performance in a synthetic diffusion MRI digital phantom with simulated edema and in retrospective data from two neurosurgical patients with edema affecting the arcuate fasciculus and corticospinal tracts. We compared the performance of several tractography methods including traditional streamline, UKF single-tensor, and UKF two-tensor. To provide practical guidance on how the UKF method could be employed, we evaluated the impact of using various seed regions both inside and outside the edematous regions, as well as the impact of parameter settings on the tractography sensitivity. We quantified the sensitivity of different methods by measuring the percentage of the patient-specific fMRI activation that was reached by the tractography. We expected that diffusion anisotropy threshold parameters, as well as the inclusion of a free water model, would significantly influence the reconstruction of edematous WM fiber tracts, because edema increases water content in the tissue and lowers anisotropy. Contrary to our initial expectations, varying the fractional anisotropy threshold and including a free water model did not affect the UKF two-tensor tractography output appreciably in these two patient datasets. The most effective parameter for increasing tracking sensitivity was the generalized anisotropy (GA) threshold, which increased the length of tracked fibers when reduced to 0.075. In addition, the most effective seeding strategy was seeding in the whole brain or in a large region outside of the edema. Overall, the main contribution of this study is to provide insight into how UKF tractography can work, using a two-tensor model, to begin to address the challenge of fiber tract reconstruction in edematous regions near brain tumors.
Adrian V Dalca, Katherine L Bouman, William T. Freeman, Natalia S Rost, Mert R Sabuncu, and Polina Golland. 6/2017. “Population Based Image Imputation.” Inf Process Med Imaging, 10265, Pp. 659-671.Abstract
We present an algorithm for creating high resolution anatomically plausible images consistent with acquired clinical brain MRI scans with large inter-slice spacing. Although large databases of clinical images contain a wealth of information, medical acquisition constraints result in sparse scans that miss much of the anatomy. These characteristics often render computational analysis impractical as standard processing algorithms tend to fail when applied to such images. Highly specialized or application-specific algorithms that explicitly handle sparse slice spacing do not generalize well across problem domains. In contrast, our goal is to enable application of existing algorithms that were originally developed for high resolution research scans to significantly undersampled scans. We introduce a model that captures fine-scale anatomical similarity across subjects in clinical image collections and use it to fill in the missing data in scans with large slice spacing. Our experimental results demonstrate that the proposed method outperforms current upsampling methods and promises to facilitate subsequent analysis not previously possible with scans of this quality.
Diffusion imaging is critical for detecting acute brain injury. However, normal apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps change rapidly in early childhood, making abnormality detection difficult. In this article, we explored clinical PACS and electronic healthcare records (EHR) to create age-specific ADC atlases for clinical radiology reference. Using the EHR and three rounds of multiexpert reviews, we found ADC maps from 201 children 0-6 years of age scanned between 2006 and 2013 who had brain MRIs with no reported abnormalities and normal clinical evaluations 2+ years later. These images were grouped in 10 age bins, densely sampling the first 1 year of life (5 bins, including neonates and 4 quarters) and representing the 1-6 year age range (an age bin per year). Unbiased group-wise registration was used to construct ADC atlases for 10 age bins. We used the atlases to quantify (a) cross-sectional normative ADC variations; (b) spatiotemporal heterogeneous ADC changes; and (c) spatiotemporal heterogeneous volumetric changes. The quantified age-specific whole-brain and region-wise ADC values were compared to those from age-matched individual subjects in our study and in multiple existing independent studies. The significance of this study is that we have shown that clinically acquired images can be used to construct normative age-specific atlases. These first of their kind age-specific normative ADC atlases quantitatively characterize changes of myelination-related water diffusion in the first 6 years of life. The quantified voxel-wise spatiotemporal ADC variations provide standard references to assist radiologists toward more objective interpretation of abnormalities in clinical images. Our atlases are available at https://www.nitrc.org/projects/mgh_adcatlases.
We perform a review of the literature in the field of white matter tractography for neurosurgical planning, focusing on those works where tractography was correlated with clinical information such as patient outcome, clinical functional testing, or electro-cortical stimulation. We organize the review by anatomical location in the brain and by surgical procedure, including both supratentorial and infratentorial pathologies, and excluding spinal cord applications. Where possible, we discuss implications of tractography for clinical care, as well as clinically relevant technical considerations regarding the tractography methods. We find that tractography is a valuable tool in variable situations in modern neurosurgery. Our survey of recent reports demonstrates multiple potentially successful applications of white matter tractography in neurosurgery, with progress towards overcoming clinical challenges of standardization and interpretation.
The glymphatic pathway is a system which facilitates continuous cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF) exchange and plays a key role in removing waste products from the rodent brain. Dysfunction of the glymphatic pathway may be implicated in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease. Intriguingly, the glymphatic system is most active during deep wave sleep general anesthesia. By using paramagnetic tracers administered into CSF of rodents, we previously showed the utility of MRI in characterizing a macroscopic whole brain view of glymphatic transport but we have yet to define and visualize the specific flow patterns. Here we have applied an alternative mathematical analysis approach to a dynamic time series of MRI images acquired every 4min over ∼3h in anesthetized rats, following administration of a small molecular weight paramagnetic tracer into the CSF reservoir of the cisterna magna. We use Optimal Mass Transport (OMT) to model the glymphatic flow vector field, and then analyze the flow to find the network of CSF-ISF flow channels. We use 3D visualization computational tools to visualize the OMT defined network of CSF-ISF flow channels in relation to anatomical and vascular key landmarks from the live rodent brain. The resulting OMT model of the glymphatic transport network agrees largely with the current understanding of the glymphatic transport patterns defined by dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI revealing key CSF transport pathways along the ventral surface of the brain with a trajectory towards the pineal gland, cerebellum, hypothalamus and olfactory bulb. In addition, the OMT analysis also revealed some interesting previously unnoticed behaviors regarding CSF transport involving parenchymal streamlines moving from ventral reservoirs towards the surface of the brain, olfactory bulb and large central veins.
In order to bridge microscopic molecular motion with macroscopic diffusion MR signal in complex structures, we propose a general stochastic model for molecular motion in a magnetic field. The Fokker-Planck equation of this model governs the probability density function describing the diffusion-magnetization propagator. From the propagator we derive a generalized version of the Bloch-Torrey equation and the relation to the random phase approach. This derivation does not require assumptions such as a spatially constant diffusion coefficient, or ad hoc selection of a propagator. In particular, the boundary conditions that implicitly incorporate the microstructure into the diffusion MR signal can now be included explicitly through a spatially varying diffusion coefficient. While our generalization is reduced to the conventional Bloch-Torrey equation for piecewise constant diffusion coefficients, it also predicts scenarios in which an additional term to the equation is required to fully describe the MR signal.
The hypothesis that brain pathways form 2D sheet-like structures layered in 3D as "pages of a book" has been a topic of debate in the recent literature. This hypothesis was mainly supported by a qualitative evaluation of "path neighborhoods" reconstructed with diffusion MRI (dMRI) tractography. Notwithstanding the potentially important implications of the sheet structure hypothesis for our understanding of brain structure and development, it is still considered controversial by many for lack of quantitative analysis. A means to quantify sheet structure is therefore necessary to reliably investigate its occurrence in the brain. Previous work has proposed the Lie bracket as a quantitative indicator of sheet structure, which could be computed by reconstructing path neighborhoods from the peak orientations of dMRI orientation density functions. Robust estimation of the Lie bracket, however, is challenging due to high noise levels and missing peak orientations. We propose a novel method to estimate the Lie bracket that does not involve the reconstruction of path neighborhoods with tractography. This method requires the computation of derivatives of the fiber peak orientations, for which we adopt an approach called normalized convolution. With simulations and experimental data we show that the new approach is more robust with respect to missing peaks and noise. We also demonstrate that the method is able to quantify to what extent sheet structure is supported for dMRI data of different species, acquired with different scanners, diffusion weightings, dMRI sampling schemes, and spatial resolutions. The proposed method can also be used with directional data derived from other techniques than dMRI, which will facilitate further validation of the existence of sheet structure.
Implant placement has been widely used in various kinds of surgery. However, accurate intraoperative drilling performance is essential to avoid injury to adjacent structures. Although some commercially-available surgical navigation systems have been approved for clinical applications, these systems are expensive and the source code is not available to researchers. 3D Slicer is a free, open source software platform for the research community of computer-aided surgery. In this study, a loadable module based on Slicer has been developed and validated to support surgical navigation. This research module allows reliable calibration of the surgical drill, point-based registration and surface matching registration, so that the position and orientation of the surgical drill can be tracked and displayed on the computer screen in real time, aiming at reducing risks. In accuracy verification experiments, the mean target registration error (TRE) for point-based and surface-based registration were 0.31±0.06mm and 1.01±0.06mm respectively, which should meet clinical requirements. Both phantom and cadaver experiments demonstrated the feasibility of our surgical navigation software module.
We consider diffusion within pores with general shapes in the presence of spatially linear magnetic field profiles. The evolution of local magnetization of the spin bearing particles can be described by the Bloch-Torrey equation. We study the diffusive process in the eigenbasis of the non-Hermitian Bloch-Torrey operator. It is possible to find expressions for some special temporal gradient waveforms employed to sensitize the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signal to diffusion. For more general gradient waveforms, we derive an efficient numerical solution by introducing a novel matrix formalism. Compared to previous methods, this new approach requires a fewer number of eigenfunctions to achieve the same accuracy. This shows that these basis functions are better suited to the problem studied. The new framework could provide new important insights into the fundamentals of diffusion sensitization, which could further the development of the field of NMR.
The basal ganglia is part of a complex system of neuronal circuits that play a key role in the integration and execution of motor, cognitive and emotional function in the human brain. Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder of the motor circuit characterized by tremor, rigidity, and slowness of movement. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus and the globus pallidus pars interna provides an efficient treatment to reduce symptoms and levodopa-induced side effects in Parkinson's disease patients. While the underlying mechanism of action of DBS is still unknown, the potential modulation of white matter tracts connecting the surgical targets has become an active area of research. With the introduction of advanced diffusion MRI acquisition sequences and sophisticated post-processing techniques, the architecture of the human brain white matter can be explored in vivo. The goal of this study is to investigate the white matter connectivity between the subthalamic nucleus and the globus pallidus. Two multi-fiber tractography methods were used to reconstruct pallido-subthalamic, subthalamo-pallidal and pyramidal fibers in five healthy subjects datasets of the Human Connectome Project. The anatomical accuracy of the tracts was assessed by four judges with expertise in neuroanatomy, functional neurosurgery, and diffusion MRI. The variability among subjects was evaluated based on the fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity of the tracts. Both multi-fiber approaches enabled the detection of complex fiber architecture in the basal ganglia. The qualitative evaluation by experts showed that the identified tracts were in agreement with the expected anatomy. Tract-derived measurements demonstrated relatively low variability among subjects. False-negative tracts demonstrated the current limitations of both methods for clinical decision-making. Multi-fiber tractography methods combined with state-of-the-art diffusion MRI data have the potential to help identify white matter tracts connecting DBS targets in functional neurosurgery intervention.
INTRODUCTION: Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects striatal neurons. Striatal volume loss is present years before clinical diagnosis; however, white matter degradation may also occur prior to diagnosis. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) can measure microstructural changes associated with degeneration that precede macrostructural changes. DWI derived measures enhance understanding of degeneration in prodromal HD (pre-HD). METHODS: As part of the PREDICT-HD study, N = 191 pre-HD individuals and 70 healthy controls underwent two or more (baseline and 1-5 year follow-up) DWI, with n = 649 total sessions. Images were processed using cutting-edge DWI analysis methods for large multicenter studies. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics were computed in selected tracts connecting the primary motor, primary somato-sensory, and premotor areas of the cortex with the subcortical caudate and putamen. Pre-HD participants were divided into three CAG-Age Product (CAP) score groups reflecting clinical diagnosis probability (low, medium, or high probabilities). Baseline and longitudinal group differences were examined using linear mixed models. RESULTS: Cross-sectional and longitudinal differences in DTI measures were present in all three CAP groups compared with controls. The high CAP group was most affected. CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest longitudinal DWI study of pre-HD to date. Findings showed DTI differences, consistent with white matter degeneration, were present up to a decade before predicted HD diagnosis. Our findings indicate a unique role for disrupted connectivity between the premotor area and the putamen, which may be closely tied to the onset of motor symptoms in HD.
The Open Anatomy Browser (OABrowser) is an open source, web-based, zero-installation anatomy atlas viewer based on current web browser technologies and evolving anatomy atlas interoperability standards. OABrowser displays three-dimensional anatomical models, image cross-sections of labeled structures and source radiological imaging, and a text-based hierarchy of structures. The viewer includes novel collaborative tools: users can save bookmarks of atlas views for later access and exchange those bookmarks with other users, and dynamic shared views allow groups of users can participate in a collaborative interactive atlas viewing session. We have published several anatomy atlases (an MRI-derived brain atlas and atlases of other parts of the anatomy) to demonstrate OABrowser's functionality. The atlas source data, processing tools, and the source for OABrowser are freely available through GitHub and are distributed under a liberal open source license.
PURPOSE: To investigate the heating of EEG electrodes during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and to better understand the underlying physical mechanisms with a focus on the antenna effect. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Gold cup and conductive plastic electrodes were placed on small watermelons with fiberoptic probes used to measure electrode temperature changes during a variety of 1.5T and 3T MRI scans. A subset of these experiments was repeated on a healthy human volunteer. RESULTS: The differences between gold and plastic electrodes did not appear to be practically significant. For both electrode types, we observed heating below 4°C for straight wires whose lengths were multiples of ½ the radiofrequency (RF) wavelength and stronger heating (over 15°C) for wire lengths that were odd multiples of ¼ RF wavelength, consistent with the antenna effect. CONCLUSIONS: The antenna effect, which has received little attention so far in the context of EEG-MRI safety, can play as significant a role as the loop effect (from electromagnetic induction) in the heating of EEG electrodes, and therefore wire lengths that are odd multiples of ¼ RF wavelength should be avoided. These results have important implications for the design of EEG electrodes and MRI studies as they help to minimize the risk to patients undergoing MRI with EEG electrodes in place.
Inferring the microstructure of complex media from the diffusive motion of molecules is a challenging problem in diffusion physics. In this paper, we introduce a novel representation of diffusion MRI (dMRI) signal from tissue with spatially-varying diffusivity using a diffusion disturbance function. This disturbance function contains information about the (intra-voxel) spatial fluctuations in diffusivity due to restrictions, hindrances and tissue heterogeneity of the underlying tissue substrate. We derive the short- and long-range disturbance coefficients from this disturbance function to characterize the tissue structure and organization. Moreover, we provide an exact relation between the disturbance coefficients and the time-varying moments of the diffusion propagator, as well as their relation to specific tissue microstructural information such as the intra-axonal volume fraction and the apparent axon radius. The proposed approach is quite general and can model dMRI signal for any type of gradient sequence (rectangular, oscillating, etc.) without using the Gaussian phase approximation. The relevance of the proposed PICASO model is explored using Monte-Carlo simulations and in-vivo dMRI data. The results show that the estimated disturbance coefficients can distinguish different types of microstructural organization of axons.
Karl-Heinz Nenning, Julia Furtner, Barbara Kiesel, Ernst Schwartz, Thomas Roetzer, Nikolaus Fortelny, Christoph Bock, Anna Grisold, Martha Marko, Fritz Leutmezer, Hesheng Liu, Polina Golland, Sophia Stoecklein, Johannes A Hainfellner, Gregor Kasprian, Daniela Prayer, Christine Marosi, Georg Widhalm, Adelheid Woehrer, and Georg Langs. 10/2020. “Distributed Changes of the Functional Connectome in Patients with Glioblastoma.” Sci Rep, 10, 1, Pp. 18312.Abstract
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.
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.
BACKGROUND: Extracellular free water within cerebral white matter tissue has been shown to increase with age and pathology, yet the cognitive consequences of free water in typical aging prior to the development of neurodegenerative disease remains unclear. Understanding the contribution of free water to cognitive function in older adults may provide important insight into the neural mechanisms of the cognitive aging process. METHODS: A diffusion-weighted MRI measure of extracellular free water as well as a commonly used diffusion MRI metric (fractional anisotropy) along nine bilateral white matter pathways were examined for their relationship with cognitive function assessed by the NIH Toolbox Cognitive Battery in 47 older adults (mean age = 74.4 years, SD = 5.4 years, range = 65-85 years). Probabilistic tractography at the 99th percentile level of probability (Tracts Constrained by Underlying Anatomy; TRACULA) was utilized to produce the pathways on which microstructural characteristics were overlaid and examined for their contribution to cognitive function independent of age, education, and gender. RESULTS: When examining the 99th percentile probability core white matter pathway derived from TRACULA, poorer fluid cognitive ability was related to higher mean free water values across the angular and cingulum bundles of the cingulate gyrus, as well as the corticospinal tract and the superior longitudinal fasciculus. There was no relationship between cognition and mean FA or free water-adjusted FA across the 99th percentile core white matter pathway. Crystallized cognitive ability was not associated with any of the diffusion measures. When examining cognitive domains comprising the NIH Toolbox Fluid Cognition index relationships with these white matter pathways, mean free water demonstrated strong hemispheric and functional specificity for cognitive performance, whereas mean FA was not related to age or cognition across the 99th percentile pathway. CONCLUSIONS: Extracellular free water within white matter appears to increase with normal aging, and higher values are associated with significantly lower fluid but not crystallized cognitive functions. When using TRACULA to estimate the core of a white matter pathway, a higher degree of free water appears to be highly specific to the pathways associated with memory, working memory, and speeded decision-making performance, whereas no such relationship existed with FA. These data suggest that free water may play an important role in the cognitive aging process, and may serve as a stronger and more specific indicator of early cognitive decline than traditional diffusion MRI measures, such as FA.
PURPOSE: To optimize diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding for precise estimation of compartment-specific fractions, diffusivities, and T values within a two-compartment model of white matter, and to explore the approach in vivo. METHODS: Sampling protocols featuring different b-values (b), b-tensor shapes (b ), and echo times (TE) were optimized using Cramér-Rao lower bounds (CRLB). Whole-brain data were acquired in children, adults, and elderly with white matter lesions. Compartment fractions, diffusivities, and T values were estimated in a model featuring two microstructural compartments represented by a "stick" and a "zeppelin." RESULTS: Precise parameter estimates were enabled by sampling protocols featuring seven or more "shells" with unique b/b /TE-combinations. Acquisition times were approximately 15 minutes. In white matter of adults, the "stick" compartment had a fraction of approximately 0.5 and, compared with the "zeppelin" compartment, featured lower isotropic diffusivities (0.6 vs. 1.3 μm /ms) but higher T values (85 vs. 65 ms). Children featured lower "stick" fractions (0.4). White matter lesions exhibited high "zeppelin" isotropic diffusivities (1.7 μm /ms) and T values (150 ms). CONCLUSIONS: Diffusion-relaxation MRI with tensor-valued diffusion encoding expands the set of microstructure parameters that can be precisely estimated and therefore increases their specificity to biological quantities.
The corticospinal tract (CST) is one of the most well studied tracts in human neuroanatomy. Its clinical significance can be demonstrated in many notable traumatic conditions and diseases such as stroke, spinal cord injury (SCI) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). With the advent of diffusion MRI and tractography the computational representation of the human CST in a 3D model became available. However, the representation of the entire CST and, specifically, the hand motor area has remained elusive. In this paper we propose a novel method, using manually drawn ROIs based on robustly identifiable neuroanatomic structures to delineate the entire CST and isolate its hand motor representation as well as to estimate their variability and generate a database of their volume, length and biophysical parameters. Using 37 healthy human subjects we performed a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the CST and the hand-related motor fiber tracts (HMFTs). Finally, we have created variability heat maps from 37 subjects for both the aforementioned tracts, which could be utilized as a reference for future studies with clinical focus to explore neuropathology in both trauma and disease states.