Designed especially for neurobiologists, FluoRender is an interactive tool for multi-channel fluorescence microscopy data visualization and analysis.
Large scale visualization on the Powerwall.
BrainStimulator is a set of networks that are used in SCIRun to perform simulations of brain stimulation such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and magnetic transcranial stimulation (TMS).
Developing software tools for science has always been a central vision of the SCI Institute.

SCI Publications

2018


D. N. Anderson, B. Osting, J. Vorwerk, A. D Dorval, C. R Butson. “Optimized programming algorithm for cylindrical and directional deep brain stimulation electrodes,” In Journal of Neural Engineering, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 026005. 2018.

ABSTRACT

Objective. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a growing treatment option for movement and psychiatric disorders. As DBS technology moves toward directional leads with increased numbers of smaller electrode contacts, trial-and-error methods of manual DBS programming are becoming too time-consuming for clinical feasibility. We propose an algorithm to automate DBS programming in near real-time for a wide range of DBS lead designs. Approach. Magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging are used to build finite element models that include anisotropic conductivity. The algorithm maximizes activation of target tissue and utilizes the Hessian matrix of the electric potential to approximate activation of neurons in all directions. We demonstrate our algorithm's ability in an example programming case that targets the subthalamic nucleus (STN) for the treatment of Parkinson's disease for three lead designs: the Medtronic 3389 (four cylindrical contacts), the direct STNAcute (two cylindrical contacts, six directional contacts), and the Medtronic-Sapiens lead (40 directional contacts). Main results. The optimization algorithm returns patient-specific contact configurations in near real-time—less than 10 s for even the most complex leads. When the lead was placed centrally in the target STN, the directional leads were able to activate over 50% of the region, whereas the Medtronic 3389 could activate only 40%. When the lead was placed 2 mm lateral to the target, the directional leads performed as well as they did in the central position, but the Medtronic 3389 activated only 2.9% of the STN. Significance. This DBS programming algorithm can be applied to cylindrical electrodes as well as novel directional leads that are too complex with modern technology to be manually programmed. This algorithm may reduce clinical programming time and encourage the use of directional leads, since they activate a larger volume of the target area than cylindrical electrodes in central and off-target lead placements.


2015


S. Pujol, W. Wells, C. Pierpaoli, C. Brun, J. Gee, G. Cheng, B. Vemuri, O. Commowick, S. Prima, A. Stamm, M. Goubran, A. Khan, T. Peters, P. Neher, K. H. Maier-Hein, Y. Shi, A. Tristan-Vega, G. Veni, R. Whitaker, M. Styner, C.F. Westin, S. Gouttard, I. Norton, L. Chauvin, H. Mamata, G. Gerig, A. Nabavi, A. Golby,, R. Kikinis. “The DTI Challenge: Toward Standardized Evaluation of Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography for Neurosurgery,” In Journal of Neuroimaging, Wiley, August, 2015.
DOI: 10.1111/jon.12283

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography reconstruction of white matter pathways can help guide brain tumor resection. However, DTI tracts are complex mathematical objects and the validity of tractography-derived information in clinical settings has yet to be fully established. To address this issue, we initiated the DTI Challenge, an international working group of clinicians and scientists whose goal was to provide standardized evaluation of tractography methods for neurosurgery. The purpose of this empirical study was to evaluate different tractography techniques in the first DTI Challenge workshop.

METHODS
Eight international teams from leading institutions reconstructed the pyramidal tract in four neurosurgical cases presenting with a glioma near the motor cortex. Tractography methods included deterministic, probabilistic, filtered, and global approaches. Standardized evaluation of the tracts consisted in the qualitative review of the pyramidal pathways by a panel of neurosurgeons and DTI experts and the quantitative evaluation of the degree of agreement among methods.

RESULTS
The evaluation of tractography reconstructions showed a great interalgorithm variability. Although most methods found projections of the pyramidal tract from the medial portion of the motor strip, only a few algorithms could trace the lateral projections from the hand, face, and tongue area. In addition, the structure of disagreement among methods was similar across hemispheres despite the anatomical distortions caused by pathological tissues.

CONCLUSIONS
The DTI Challenge provides a benchmark for the standardized evaluation of tractography methods on neurosurgical data. This study suggests that there are still limitations to the clinical use of tractography for neurosurgical decision making.



N. Sadeghi, J. H. Gilmore , G. Gerig. “Modeling Brain Growth and Development,” In Brain, Vol. 1, pp. 429-436. 2015.
DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-397025-1.00314-6

ABSTRACT

Early brain development is characterized by rapid organization and structuring. Magnetic resonance–diffusion tensor imaging (MR-DTI) provides the possibility of capturing these changes noninvasively by following individuals longitudinally to better understand departures from normal brain development in subjects at risk for mental illness. This article illustrates the modeling of neurodevelopmental trajectories using a recently developed framework. Descriptions include the estimation of normative models for healthy singletons and twins and a statistical framework to predict development at 2 years of age only based on neonatal image data – a capability with excellent potential for preclinical diagnosis and eventual early therapeutic intervention.



J. J. Wolff, G. Gerig, J. D. Lewis, T. Soda, M. A. Styner, C. Vachet, K. N. Botteron, J. T. Elison, S. R. Dager, A. M. Estes, H. C. Hazlett, R. T. Schultz, L. Zwaigenbaum, J. Piven. “Altered corpus callosum morphology associated with autism over the first 2 years of life,” In Brain, 2015.
DOI: 10.1093/brain/awv118

ABSTRACT

Numerous brain imaging studies indicate that the corpus callosum is smaller in older children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. However, there are no published studies examining the morphological development of this connective pathway in infants at-risk for the disorder. Magnetic resonance imaging data were collected from 270 infants at high familial risk for autism spectrum disorder and 108 low-risk controls at 6, 12 and 24 months of age, with 83% of infants contributing two or more data points. Fifty-seven children met criteria for ASD based on clinical-best estimate diagnosis at age 2 years. Corpora callosa were measured for area, length and thickness by automated segmentation. We found significantly increased corpus callosum area and thickness in children with autism spectrum disorder starting at 6 months of age. These differences were particularly robust in the anterior corpus callosum at the 6 and 12 month time points. Regression analysis indicated that radial diffusivity in this region, measured by diffusion tensor imaging, inversely predicted thickness. Measures of area and thickness in the first year of life were correlated with repetitive behaviours at age 2 years. In contrast to work from older children and adults, our findings suggest that the corpus callosum may be larger in infants who go on to develop autism spectrum disorder. This result was apparent with or without adjustment for total brain volume. Although we did not see a significant interaction between group and age, cross-sectional data indicated that area and thickness differences diminish by age 2 years. Regression data incorporating diffusion tensor imaging suggest that microstructural properties of callosal white matter, which includes myelination and axon composition, may explain group differences in morphology.


2014


G. Adluru, Y. Gur, J. Anderson, L. Richards, N. Adluru, E. DiBella. “Assessment of white matter microstructure in stroke patients using NODDI,” In Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE Int. Conf. Engineering and Biology Society (EMBC), 2014.

ABSTRACT

Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) is widely used to study changes in white matter following stroke. In various studies employing diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) modalities, it has been shown that fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and generalized FA (GFA) can be used as measures of white matter tract integrity in stroke patients. However, these measures may be non-specific, as they do not directly delineate changes in tissue microstructure. Multi-compartment models overcome this limitation by modeling DWI data using a set of indices that are directly related to white matter microstructure. One of these models which is gaining popularity, is neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI). This model uses conventional single or multi-shell HARDI data to describe fiber orientation dispersion as well as densities of different tissue types in the imaging voxel. In this paper, we apply for the first time the NODDI model to 4-shell HARDI stroke data. By computing NODDI indices over the entire brain in two stroke patients, and comparing tissue regions in ipsilesional and contralesional hemispheres, we demonstrate that NODDI modeling provides specific information on tissue microstructural changes. We also introduce an information theoretic analysis framework to investigate the non-local effects of stroke in the white matter. Our initial results suggest that the NODDI indices might be more specific markers of white matter reorganization following stroke than other measures previously used in studies of stroke recovery.



X. Hao, K. Zygmunt, R.T. Whitaker, P.T. Fletcher. “Improved Segmentation of White Matter Tracts with Adaptive Riemannian Metrics,” In Medical Image Analysis, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 161--175. Jan, 2014.
DOI: 10.1016/j.media.2013.10.007
PubMed ID: 24211814

ABSTRACT

We present a novel geodesic approach to segmentation of white matter tracts from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Compared to deterministic and stochastic tractography, geodesic approaches treat the geometry of the brain white matter as a manifold, often using the inverse tensor field as a Riemannian metric. The white matter pathways are then inferred from the resulting geodesics, which have the desirable property that they tend to follow the main eigenvectors of the tensors, yet still have the flexibility to deviate from these directions when it results in lower costs. While this makes such methods more robust to noise, the choice of Riemannian metric in these methods is ad hoc. A serious drawback of current geodesic methods is that geodesics tend to deviate from the major eigenvectors in high-curvature areas in order to achieve the shortest path. In this paper we propose a method for learning an adaptive Riemannian metric from the DTI data, where the resulting geodesics more closely follow the principal eigenvector of the diffusion tensors even in high-curvature regions. We also develop a way to automatically segment the white matter tracts based on the computed geodesics. We show the robustness of our method on simulated data with different noise levels. We also compare our method with tractography methods and geodesic approaches using other Riemannian metrics and demonstrate that the proposed method results in improved geodesics and segmentations using both synthetic and real DTI data.

Keywords: Conformal factor, Diffusion tensor imaging, Front-propagation, Geodesic, Riemannian manifold



I. Oguz, M. Farzinfar, J. Matsui, F. Budin, Z. Liu, G. Gerig, H.J. Johnson, M.A. Styner. “DTIPrep: Quality Control of Diffusion-Weighted Images,” In Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2014.
DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2014.00004

ABSTRACT

In the last decade, diffusion MRI (dMRI) studies of the human and animal brain have been used to investigate a multitude of pathologies and drug-related effects in neuroscience research. Study after study identifies white matter (WM) degeneration as a crucial biomarker for all these diseases. The tool of choice for studying WM is dMRI. However, dMRI has inherently low signal-to-noise ratio and its acquisition requires a relatively long scan time; in fact, the high loads required occasionally stress scanner hardware past the point of physical failure. As a result, many types of artifacts implicate the quality of diffusion imagery. Using these complex scans containing artifacts without quality control (QC) can result in considerable error and bias in the subsequent analysis, negatively affecting the results of research studies using them. However, dMRI QC remains an under-recognized issue in the dMRI community as there are no user-friendly tools commonly available to comprehensively address the issue of dMRI QC. As a result, current dMRI studies often perform a poor job at dMRI QC.

Thorough QC of diffusion MRI will reduce measurement noise and improve reproducibility, and sensitivity in neuroimaging studies; this will allow researchers to more fully exploit the power of the dMRI technique and will ultimately advance neuroscience. Therefore, in this manuscript, we present our open-source software, DTIPrep, as a unified, user friendly platform for thorough quality control of dMRI data. These include artifacts caused by eddy-currents, head motion, bed vibration and pulsation, venetian blind artifacts, as well as slice-wise and gradient-wise intensity inconsistencies. This paper summarizes a basic set of features of DTIPrep described earlier and focuses on newly added capabilities related to directional artifacts and bias analysis.

Keywords: diffusion MRI, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Quality control, Software, open-source, preprocessing



N. Sadeghi, J.H. Gilmore, W. Lin, G. Gerig. “Normative Modeling of Early Brain Maturation from Longitudinal DTI Reveals Twin-Singleton Differences,” In Proceeding of the 2014 Joint Annual Meeting ISMRM-ESMRMB, pp. (accepted). 2014.

ABSTRACT

Early brain development of white matter is characterized by rapid organization and structuring. Magnetic Resonance diffusion tensor imaging (MR-DTI) provides the possibility of capturing these changes non-invasively by following individuals longitudinally in order to better understand departures from normal brain development in subjects at risk for mental illness [1]. Longitudinal imaging of individuals suggests the use of 4D (3D, time) image analysis and longitudinal statistical modeling [3].



A.R. Verde, F. Budin, J.-B. Berger, A. Gupta, M. Farzinfar, A. Kaiser, M. Ahn, H. Johnson, J. Matsui, H.C. Hazlett, A. Sharma, C. Goodlett, Y. Shi, S. Gouttard, C. Vachet, J. Piven, H. Zhu, G. Gerig, M. Styner. “UNC-Utah NA-MIC framework for DTI fiber tract analysis,” In Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Vol. 7, No. 51, January, 2014.
DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00051

ABSTRACT

Diffusion tensor imaging has become an important modality in the field of neuroimaging to capture changes in micro-organization and to assess white matter integrity or development. While there exists a number of tractography toolsets, these usually lack tools for preprocessing or to analyze diffusion properties along the fiber tracts. Currently, the field is in critical need of a coherent end-to-end toolset for performing an along-fiber tract analysis, accessible to non-technical neuroimaging researchers. The UNC-Utah NA-MIC DTI framework represents a coherent, open source, end-to-end toolset for atlas fiber tract based DTI analysis encompassing DICOM data conversion, quality control, atlas building, fiber tractography, fiber parameterization, and statistical analysis of diffusion properties. Most steps utilize graphical user interfaces (GUI) to simplify interaction and provide an extensive DTI analysis framework for non-technical researchers/investigators. We illustrate the use of our framework on a small sample, cross sectional neuroimaging study of eight healthy 1-year-old children from the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network. In this limited test study, we illustrate the power of our method by quantifying the diffusion properties at 1 year of age on the genu and splenium fiber tracts.

Keywords: neonatal neuroimaging, white matter pathways, magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, diffusion imaging quality control, DTI atlas building


2013


A. Daducci, E.J. Canales-Rodriguez, M. Descoteaux, E. Garyfallidis, Y. Gur, Y.-C Lin, M. Mani, S. Merlet, M. Paquette, A. Ramirez-Manzanares, M. Reisert, P.R. Rodrigues, F. Sepehrband, E. Caruyer, J. Choupan, R. Deriche, M. Jacob, G. Menegaz, V. Prckovska, M. Rivera, Y. Wiaux, J.-P. Thiran. “Quantitative comparison of reconstruction methods for intra-voxel fiber recovery from diffusion MRI,” In IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 384--399. 2013.
ISSN: 0278-0062
DOI: 10.1109/TMI.2013.2285500

ABSTRACT

Validation is arguably the bottleneck in the diffusion MRI community. This paper evaluates and compares 20 algorithms for recovering the local intra-voxel fiber structure from diffusion MRI data and is based on the results of the "HARDI reconstruction challenge" organized in the context of the "ISBI 2012" conference. Evaluated methods encompass a mixture of classical techniques well-known in the literature such as Diffusion Tensor, Q-Ball and Diffusion Spectrum imaging, algorithms inspired by the recent theory of compressed sensing and also brand new approaches proposed for the first time at this contest. To quantitatively compare the methods under controlled conditions, two datasets with known ground-truth were synthetically generated and two main criteria were used to evaluate the quality of the reconstructions in every voxel: correct assessment of the number of fiber populations and angular accuracy in their orientation. This comparative study investigates the behavior of every algorithm with varying experimental conditions and highlights strengths and weaknesses of each approach.



M. Farzinfar, Y. Li, A.R. Verde, I. Oguz, G. Gerig, M.A. Styner. “DTI Quality Control Assessment via Error Estimation From Monte Carlo Simulations,” In Proceedings of SPIE 8669, Medical Imaging 2013: Image Processing, Vol. 8669, 2013.
DOI: 10.1117/12.2006925
PubMed ID: 23833547
PubMed Central ID: PMC3702180

ABSTRACT

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is currently the state of the art method for characterizing the microscopic tissue structure of white matter in normal or diseased brain in vivo. DTI is estimated from a series of Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) volumes. DWIs suffer from a number of artifacts which mandate stringent Quality Control (QC) schemes to eliminate lower quality images for optimal tensor estimation. Conventionally, QC procedures exclude artifact-affected DWIs from subsequent computations leading to a cleaned, reduced set of DWIs, called DWI-QC. Often, a rejection threshold is heuristically/empirically chosen above which the entire DWI-QC data is rendered unacceptable and thus no DTI is computed. In this work, we have devised a more sophisticated, Monte-Carlo (MC) simulation based method for the assessment of resulting tensor properties. This allows for a consistent, error-based threshold definition in order to reject/accept the DWI-QC data. Specifically, we propose the estimation of two error metrics related to directional distribution bias of Fractional Anisotropy (FA) and the Principal Direction (PD). The bias is modeled from the DWI-QC gradient information and a Rician noise model incorporating the loss of signal due to the DWI exclusions. Our simulations further show that the estimated bias can be substantially different with respect to magnitude and directional distribution depending on the degree of spatial clustering of the excluded DWIs. Thus, determination of diffusion properties with minimal error requires an evenly distributed sampling of the gradient directions before and after QC.



M. Farzinfar, I. Oguz, R.G. Smith, A.R. Verde, C. Dietrich, A. Gupta, M.L. Escolar, J. Piven, S. Pujol, C. Vachet, S. Gouttard, G. Gerig, S. Dager, R.C. McKinstry, S. Paterson, A.C. Evans, M.A. Styner. “Diffusion imaging quality control via entropy of principal direction distribution,” In NeuroImage, Vol. 82, pp. 1--12. 2013.
ISSN: 1053-8119
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.022

ABSTRACT

Diffusion MR imaging has received increasing attention in the neuroimaging community, as it yields new insights into the microstructural organization of white matter that are not available with conventional MRI techniques. While the technology has enormous potential, diffusion MRI suffers from a unique and complex set of image quality problems, limiting the sensitivity of studies and reducing the accuracy of findings. Furthermore, the acquisition time for diffusion MRI is longer than conventional MRI due to the need for multiple acquisitions to obtain directionally encoded Diffusion Weighted Images (DWI). This leads to increased motion artifacts, reduced signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and increased proneness to a wide variety of artifacts, including eddy-current and motion artifacts, “venetian blind” artifacts, as well as slice-wise and gradient-wise inconsistencies. Such artifacts mandate stringent Quality Control (QC) schemes in the processing of diffusion MRI data. Most existing QC procedures are conducted in the DWI domain and/or on a voxel level, but our own experiments show that these methods often do not fully detect and eliminate certain types of artifacts, often only visible when investigating groups of DWI's or a derived diffusion model, such as the most-employed diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Here, we propose a novel regional QC measure in the DTI domain that employs the entropy of the regional distribution of the principal directions (PD). The PD entropy quantifies the scattering and spread of the principal diffusion directions and is invariant to the patient's position in the scanner. High entropy value indicates that the PDs are distributed relatively uniformly, while low entropy value indicates the presence of clusters in the PD distribution. The novel QC measure is intended to complement the existing set of QC procedures by detecting and correcting residual artifacts. Such residual artifacts cause directional bias in the measured PD and here called dominant direction artifacts. Experiments show that our automatic method can reliably detect and potentially correct such artifacts, especially the ones caused by the vibrations of the scanner table during the scan. The results further indicate the usefulness of this method for general quality assessment in DTI studies.

Keywords: Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging, Diffusion tensor imaging, Quality assessment, Entropy



N. Sadeghi, M.W. Prastawa, P.T. Fletcher, C. Vachet, Bo Wang, J.H. Gilmore, G. Gerig. “Multivariate Modeling of Longitudinal MRI in Early Brain Development with Confidence Measures,” In Proceedings of the 2013 IEEE 10th International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI), pp. 1400--1403. 2013.
DOI: 10.1109/ISBI.2013.6556795

ABSTRACT

The human brain undergoes rapid organization and structuring early in life. Longitudinal imaging enables the study of these changes over a developmental period within individuals through estimation of population growth trajectory and its variability. In this paper, we focus on maturation of white and gray matter as is depicted in structural and diffusion MRI of healthy subjects with repeated scans. We provide a framework for joint analysis of both structural MRI and DTI (Diffusion Tensor Imaging) using multivariate nonlinear mixed effect modeling of temporal changes. Our framework constructs normative growth models for all the modalities that take into account the correlation among the modalities and individuals, along with estimation of the variability of the population trends. We apply our method to study early brain development, and to our knowledge this is the first multimodel longitudinal modeling of diffusion and signal intensity changes for this growth stage. Results show the potential of our framework to study growth trajectories, as well as neurodevelopmental disorders through comparison against the constructed normative models of multimodal 4D MRI.



N. Sadeghi, M.W. Prastawa, P.T. Fletcher, J. Wolff, J.H. Gilmore, G. Gerig. “Regional characterization of longitudinal DT-MRI to study white matter maturation of the early developing brain,” In NeuroImage, Vol. 68, pp. 236--247. March, 2013.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.11.040
PubMed ID: 23235270

ABSTRACT

The human brain undergoes rapid and dynamic development early in life. Assessment of brain growth patterns relevant to neurological disorders and disease requires a normative population model of growth and variability in order to evaluate deviation from typical development. In this paper, we focus on maturation of brain white matter as shown in diffusion tensor MRI (DT-MRI), measured by fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), as well as axial and radial diffusivities (AD, RD). We present a novel methodology to model temporal changes of white matter diffusion from longitudinal DT-MRI data taken at discrete time points. Our proposed framework combines nonlinear modeling of trajectories of individual subjects, population analysis, and testing for regional differences in growth pattern. We first perform deformable mapping of longitudinal DT-MRI of healthy infants imaged at birth, 1 year, and 2 years of age, into a common unbiased atlas. An existing template of labeled white matter regions is registered to this atlas to define anatomical regions of interest. Diffusivity properties of these regions, presented over time, serve as input to the longitudinal characterization of changes. We use non-linear mixed effect (NLME) modeling where temporal change is described by the Gompertz function. The Gompertz growth function uses intuitive parameters related to delay, rate of change, and expected asymptotic value; all descriptive measures which can answer clinical questions related to quantitative analysis of growth patterns. Results suggest that our proposed framework provides descriptive and quantitative information on growth trajectories that can be interpreted by clinicians using natural language terms that describe growth. Statistical analysis of regional differences between anatomical regions which are known to mature differently demonstrates the potential of the proposed method for quantitative assessment of brain growth and differences thereof. This will eventually lead to a prediction of white matter diffusion properties and associated cognitive development at later stages given imaging data at early stages.



N. Sadeghi, C. Vachet, M. Prastawa, J. Korenberg, G. Gerig. “Analysis of Diffusion Tensor Imaging for Subjects with Down Syndrome,” In Proceedings of the 19th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping OHBM, pp. (in print). 2013.

ABSTRACT

Down syndrome (DS) is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans. It is typically associated with delayed cognitive development and physical growth. DS is also associated with Alzheimer-like dementia [1]. In this study we analyze the white matter integrity of individuals with DS compared to control as is reflected in the diffusion parameters derived from Diffusion Tensor Imaging. DTI provides relevant information about the underlying tissue, which correlates with cognitive function [2]. We present a cross-sectional analysis of white matter tracts of subjects with DS compared to control.



N. Sadeghi. “Modeling and Analysis of Longitudinal Multimodal Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Application to Early Brain Development,” Note: Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Bioengineering, University of Utah, December, 2013.

ABSTRACT

Many mental illnesses are thought to have their origins in early stages of development, encouraging increased research efforts related to early neurodevelopment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has provided us with an unprecedented view of the brain in vivo. More recently, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI/DT-MRI), a magnetic resonance imaging technique, has enabled the characterization of the microstrucutral organization of tissue in vivo. As the brain develops, the water content in the brain decreases while protein and fat content increases due to processes such as myelination and axonal organization. Changes of signal intensity in structural MRI and diffusion parameters of DTI reflect these underlying biological changes.

Longitudinal neuroimaging studies provide a unique opportunity for understanding brain maturation by taking repeated scans over a time course within individuals. Despite the availability of detailed images of the brain, there has been little progress in accurate modeling of brain development or creating predictive models of structure that could help identify early signs of illness. We have developed methodologies for the nonlinear parametric modeling of longitudinal structural MRI and DTI changes over the neurodevelopmental period to address this gap. This research provides a normative model of early brain growth trajectory as is represented in structural MRI and DTI data, which will be crucial to understanding the timing and potential mechanisms of atypical development. Growth trajectories are described via intuitive parameters related to delay, rate of growth and expected asymptotic values, all descriptive measures that can answer clinical questions related to quantitative analysis of growth patterns. We demonstrate the potential of the framework on two clinical studies: healthy controls (singletons and twins) and children at risk of autism. Our framework is designed not only to provide qualitative comparisons, but also to give researchers and clinicians quantitative parameters and a statistical testing scheme. Moreover, the method includes modeling of growth trajectories of individuals, resulting in personalized profiles. The statistical framework also allows for prediction and prediction intervals for subject-specific growth trajectories, which will be crucial for efforts to improve diagnosis for individuals and personalized treatment.

Keywords: autism, brain development, image analysis



S. Short, J.T. Elison, B.D. Goldman, M. Styner, H. Gu, M. Connelly, E. Maltbie, S. Woolson, W. Lin, G. Gerig, J.S. Reznick, J.H. Gilmore. “Associations Between White Matter Microstructure and Infants' Working Memory,” In Neuroimage, Vol. 64, No. 1, Elsvier, pp. 156--166. January, 2013.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.09.021
PubMed ID: 22989623

ABSTRACT

Working memory emerges in infancy and plays a privileged role in subsequent adaptive cognitive development. The neural networks important for the development of working memory during infancy remain unknown. We used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and deterministic fiber tracking to characterize the microstructure of white matter fiber bundles hypothesized to support working memory in 12-month-old infants (n=73). Here we show robust associations between infants' visuospatial working memory performance and microstructural characteristics of widespread white matter. Significant associations were found for white matter tracts that connect brain regions known to support working memory in older children and adults (genu, anterior and superior thalamic radiations, anterior cingulum, arcuate fasciculus, and the temporal-parietal segment). Better working memory scores were associated with higher FA and lower RD values in these selected white matter tracts. These tract-specific brain-behavior relationships accounted for a significant amount of individual variation above and beyond infants' gestational age and developmental level, as measured with the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. Working memory was not associated with global measures of brain volume, as expected, and few associations were found between working memory and control white matter tracts. To our knowledge, this study is among the first demonstrations of brain-behavior associations in infants using quantitative tractography. The ability to characterize subtle individual differences in infant brain development associated with complex cognitive functions holds promise for improving our understanding of normative development, biomarkers of risk, experience-dependent learning and neuro-cognitive periods of developmental plasticity.


2012


C. Cascio, M.J. Gribbin, S. Gouttard, R.G. Smith, M. Jomier, S.H. Field, M. Graves, H.C. Hazlett, K. Muller, G. Gerig, J. Piven. “Fractional Anisotropy Distributions in 2-6 Year-Old Children with Autism,” In Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (JIDR), pp. (in print). 2012.

ABSTRACT

Background: Increasing evidence suggests that autism is a disorder of distributed neural networks that may exhibit abnormal developmental trajectories. Characterization of white matter early in the developmental course of the disorder is critical to understanding these aberrant trajectories.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 2-6 year old children with autism was conducted using diffusion tensor imaging combined with a novel statistical approach employing fractional anisotropy distributions. 58 children aged 18-79 months were imaged: 33 were diagnosed with autism, 8 with general developmental delay (DD), and 17 were typically developing (TD). Fractional anisotropy values within global white matter, cortical lobes, and the cerebellum were measured and transformed to random F distributions for each subject. Each distribution of values for a region was summarized by estimating delta, the estimated mean and standard deviation of the approximating F for each distribution.

Results: The estimated delta parameter, delta-hat, was significantly decreased in individuals with autism compared to the combined control group. This was true in all cortical lobes, as well as in the cerebellum, but differences were strongest in the temporal lobe. Predicted developmental trajectories of delta-hat across the age range in the sample showed patterns that partially distinguished the groups. Exploratory analyses suggested that the variability, rather than the central tendency, component of delta-hat was the driving force behind these results. Conclusions: White matter in young children with autism appears to be abnormally homogeneous, which may reflect poorly organized or differentiated pathways, particularly in the temporal lobe, which is important for social and emotional cognition.



S. Gouttard, C.B. Goodlett, M. Kubicki, G. Gerig. “Measures for Validation of DTI Tractography,” In Medical Imaging 2012: Image Processing, Edited by David R. Haynor and Sebastien Ourselin, SPIE Intl Soc Optical Eng, Feb, 2012.
DOI: 10.1117/12.911546

ABSTRACT

The evaluation of analysis methods for diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) remains challenging due to the lack of gold standards and validation frameworks. Significant work remains in developing metrics for comparing fiber bundles generated from streamline tractography. We propose a set of volumetric and tract oriented measures for evaluating tract differences. The different methods developed for this assessment work are: an overlap measurement, a point cloud distance and a quantification of the diffusion properties at similar locations between fiber bundles. The application of the measures in this paper is a comparison of atlas generated tractography to tractography generated in individual images. For the validation we used a database of 37 subject DTIs, and applied the measurements on five specific fiber bundles: uncinate, cingulum (left and right for both bundles) and genu. Each measurments is interesting for specific use: the overlap measure presents a simple and comprehensive metric but is sensitive to partial voluming and does not give consistent values depending on the bundle geometry. The point cloud distance associated with a quantile interpretation of the distribution gives a good intuition of how close and similar the bundles are. Finally, the functional difference is useful for a comparison of the diffusion properties since it is the focus of many DTI analysis to compare scalar invariants. The comparison demonstrated reasonable similarity of results. The tract difference measures are also applicable to comparison of tractography algorithms, quality control, reproducibility studies, and other validation problems.



A. Gupta, M. Escolar, C. Dietrich, J. Gilmore, G. Gerig, M. Styne. “3D Tensor Normalization for Improved Accuracy in DTI Registration Methods,” In Biomedical Image Registration Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS), In Biomedical Image Registration Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS), Vol. 7359, pp. 170--179. 2012.
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-31340-0_18

ABSTRACT

This paper presents a method for normalization of diffusion tensor images (DTI) to a fixed DTI template, a pre-processing step to improve the performance of full tensor based registration methods. The proposed method maps the individual tensors of the subject image in to the template space based on matching the cumulative distribution function and the fractional anisotrophy values. The method aims to determine a more accurate deformation field from any full tensor registration method by applying the registration algorithm on the normalized DTI rather than the original DTI. The deformation field applied to the original tensor images are compared to the deformed image without normalization for 11 different cases of mapping seven subjects (neonate through 2 years) to two different atlases. The method shows an improvement in DTI registration based on comparing the normalized fractional anisotropy values of major fiber tracts in the brain.