ResearchPad - diffusion-magnetic-resonance-imaging Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Diffusion MRI reveals in vivo and non-invasively changes in astrocyte function induced by an aquaporin-4 inhibitor]]> The Glymphatic System (GS) has been proposed as a mechanism to clear brain tissue from waste. Its dysfunction might lead to several brain pathologies, including the Alzheimer’s disease. A key component of the GS and brain tissue water circulation is the astrocyte which is regulated by acquaporin-4 (AQP4), a membrane-bound water channel on the astrocytic end-feet. Here we investigated the potential of diffusion MRI to monitor astrocyte activity in a mouse brain model through the inhibition of AQP4 channels with TGN-020. Upon TGN-020 injection, we observed a significant decrease in the Sindex, a diffusion marker of tissue microstructure, and a significant increase of the water diffusion coefficient (sADC) in cerebral cortex and hippocampus compared to saline injection. These results indicate the suitability of diffusion MRI to monitor astrocytic activity in vivo and non-invasively.

<![CDATA[D-BRAIN: Anatomically Accurate Simulated Diffusion MRI Brain Data]]>

Diffusion Weighted (DW) MRI allows for the non-invasive study of water diffusion inside living tissues. As such, it is useful for the investigation of human brain white matter (WM) connectivity in vivo through fiber tractography (FT) algorithms. Many DW-MRI tailored restoration techniques and FT algorithms have been developed. However, it is not clear how accurately these methods reproduce the WM bundle characteristics in real-world conditions, such as in the presence of noise, partial volume effect, and a limited spatial and angular resolution. The difficulty lies in the lack of a realistic brain phantom on the one hand, and a sufficiently accurate way of modeling the acquisition-related degradation on the other. This paper proposes a software phantom that approximates a human brain to a high degree of realism and that can incorporate complex brain-like structural features. We refer to it as a Diffusion BRAIN (D-BRAIN) phantom. Also, we propose an accurate model of a (DW) MRI acquisition protocol to allow for validation of methods in realistic conditions with data imperfections. The phantom model simulates anatomical and diffusion properties for multiple brain tissue components, and can serve as a ground-truth to evaluate FT algorithms, among others. The simulation of the acquisition process allows one to include noise, partial volume effects, and limited spatial and angular resolution in the images. In this way, the effect of image artifacts on, for instance, fiber tractography can be investigated with great detail. The proposed framework enables reliable and quantitative evaluation of DW-MR image processing and FT algorithms at the level of large-scale WM structures. The effect of noise levels and other data characteristics on cortico-cortical connectivity and tractography-based grey matter parcellation can be investigated as well.

<![CDATA[Quantifying Differences and Similarities in Whole-Brain White Matter Architecture Using Local Connectome Fingerprints]]>

Quantifying differences or similarities in connectomes has been a challenge due to the immense complexity of global brain networks. Here we introduce a noninvasive method that uses diffusion MRI to characterize whole-brain white matter architecture as a single local connectome fingerprint that allows for a direct comparison between structural connectomes. In four independently acquired data sets with repeated scans (total N = 213), we show that the local connectome fingerprint is highly specific to an individual, allowing for an accurate self-versus-others classification that achieved 100% accuracy across 17,398 identification tests. The estimated classification error was approximately one thousand times smaller than fingerprints derived from diffusivity-based measures or region-to-region connectivity patterns for repeat scans acquired within 3 months. The local connectome fingerprint also revealed neuroplasticity within an individual reflected as a decreasing trend in self-similarity across time, whereas this change was not observed in the diffusivity measures. Moreover, the local connectome fingerprint can be used as a phenotypic marker, revealing 12.51% similarity between monozygotic twins, 5.14% between dizygotic twins, and 4.51% between none-twin siblings, relative to differences between unrelated subjects. This novel approach opens a new door for probing the influence of pathological, genetic, social, or environmental factors on the unique configuration of the human connectome.

<![CDATA[Surface-Based fMRI-Driven Diffusion Tractography in the Presence of Significant Brain Pathology: A Study Linking Structure and Function in Cerebral Palsy]]>

Diffusion MRI (dMRI) tractography analyses are difficult to perform in the presence of brain pathology. Automated methods that rely on cortical parcellation for structural connectivity studies often fail, while manually defining regions is extremely time consuming and can introduce human error. Both methods also make assumptions about structure-function relationships that may not hold after cortical reorganisation. Seeding tractography with functional-MRI (fMRI) activation is an emerging method that reduces these confounds, but inherent smoothing of fMRI signal may result in the inclusion of irrelevant pathways. This paper describes a novel fMRI-seeded dMRI-analysis pipeline based on surface-meshes that reduces these issues and utilises machine-learning to generate task specific white matter pathways, minimising the requirement for manually-drawn ROIs. We directly compared this new strategy to a standard voxelwise fMRI-dMRI approach, by investigating correlations between clinical scores and dMRI metrics of thalamocortical and corticomotor tracts in 31 children with unilateral cerebral palsy. The surface-based approach successfully processed more participants (87%) than the voxel-based approach (65%), and provided significantly more-coherent tractography. Significant correlations between dMRI metrics and five clinical scores of function were found for the more superior regions of these tracts. These significant correlations were stronger and more frequently found with the surface-based method (15/20 investigated were significant; R2 = 0.43–0.73) than the voxelwise analysis (2 sig. correlations; 0.38 & 0.49). More restricted fMRI signal, better-constrained tractography, and the novel track-classification method all appeared to contribute toward these differences.

<![CDATA[Obesity Associated Cerebral Gray and White Matter Alterations Are Interrelated in the Female Brain]]>

Obesity is known to affect the brain's gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) structure but the interrelationship of such changes remains unclear. Here we used T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in combination with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to assess the relationship between obesity-associated alterations of gray matter density (GMD) and anisotropic water diffusion in WM, respectively. In a small cohort of lean to obese women, we confirmed previous reports of obesity-associated alterations of GMD in brain regions involved in executive control (i.e., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, DLPFC) and habit learning (i.e., dorsal striatum). Gray matter density alterations of the DLPFC were negatively correlated with radial diffusivity in the entire corpus callosum. Within the genu of the corpus callosum we found a positive correlation with axial diffusivity. In posterior region and inferior areas of the body of the corpus callosum, axial diffusivity correlated negatively with altered GMD in the dorsal striatum. These findings suggest that, in women, obesity-related alterations of GMD in brain regions involved in executive control and habit learning might relate to alterations of associated WM fiber bundles within the corpus callosum.

<![CDATA[Comparison of Diffusion MRI Acquisition Protocols for the In Vivo Characterization of the Mouse Spinal Cord: Variability Analysis and Application to an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Model]]>

Diffusion-weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging (dMRI) has relevant applications in the microstructural characterization of the spinal cord, especially in neurodegenerative diseases. Animal models have a pivotal role in the study of such diseases; however, in vivo spinal dMRI of small animals entails additional challenges that require a systematical investigation of acquisition parameters. The purpose of this study is to compare three acquisition protocols and identify the scanning parameters allowing a robust estimation of the main diffusion quantities and a good sensitivity to neurodegeneration in the mouse spinal cord. For all the protocols, the signal-to-noise and contrast-to noise ratios and the mean value and variability of Diffusion Tensor metrics were evaluated in healthy controls. For the estimation of fractional anisotropy less variability was provided by protocols with more diffusion directions, for the estimation of mean, axial and radial diffusivity by protocols with fewer diffusion directions and higher diffusion weighting. Intermediate features (12 directions, b = 1200 s/mm2) provided the overall minimum inter- and intra-subject variability in most cases. In order to test the diagnostic sensitivity of the protocols, 7 G93A-SOD1 mice (model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) at 10 and 17 weeks of age were scanned and the derived diffusion parameters compared with those estimated in age-matched healthy animals. The protocols with an intermediate or high number of diffusion directions provided the best differentiation between the two groups at week 17, whereas only few local significant differences were highlighted at week 10. According to our results, a dMRI protocol with an intermediate number of diffusion gradient directions and a relatively high diffusion weighting is optimal for spinal cord imaging. Further work is needed to confirm these results and for a finer tuning of acquisition parameters. Nevertheless, our findings could be important for the optimization of acquisition protocols for preclinical and clinical dMRI studies on the spinal cord.

<![CDATA[Identification of Neonatal White Matter on DTI: Influence of More Inclusive Thresholds for Atlas Segmentation]]>


Semi-automated diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis of white matter (WM) microstructure offers a clinically feasible technique to assess neonatal brain development and provide early prognosis, but is limited by variable methods and insufficient evidence regarding optimal parameters. The purpose of this research was to investigate the influence of threshold values on semi-automated, atlas-based brain segmentation in very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) preterm infants at near-term age.

Materials and Methods

DTI scans were analyzed from 45 VLBW preterm neonates at near-term-age with no brain abnormalities evident on MRI. Brain regions were selected with a neonatal brain atlas and threshold values: trace <0.006 mm2/s, fractional anisotropy (FA)>0.15, FA>0.20, and FA>0.25. Relative regional volumes, FA, axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) were compared for twelve WM regions.


Near-term brain regions demonstrated differential effects from segmentation with the three FA thresholds. Regional DTI values and volumes selected in the PLIC, CereP, and RLC varied the least with the application of different FA thresholds. Overall, application of higher FA thresholds significantly reduced brain region volume selected, increased variability, and resulted in higher FA and lower RD values. The lower threshold FA>0.15 selected 78±21% of original volumes segmented by the atlas, compared to 38±12% using threshold FA>0.25.


Results indicate substantial and differential effects of atlas-based DTI threshold parameters on regional volume and diffusion scalars. A lower, more inclusive FA threshold than typically applied for adults is suggested for consistent analysis of WM regions in neonates.

<![CDATA[Medial Frontal White and Gray Matter Contributions to General Intelligence]]>

The medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) are part of a wider neural network that plays an important role in general intelligence and executive function. We used structural brain imaging to quantify magnetic resonance gray matter volume and diffusion tensor white matter integrity of the mOFC-rACC network in 26 healthy participants who also completed neuropsychological tests of intellectual abilities and executive function. Stochastic tractography, the most effective Diffusion Tensor Imaging method for examining white matter connections between adjacent gray matter regions, was employed to assess the integrity of mOFC-rACC pathways. Fractional anisotropy (FA), which reflects the integrity of white matter connections, was calculated. Results indicated that higher intelligence correlated with greater gray matter volumes for both mOFC and rACC, as well as with increased FA for left posterior mOFC-rACC connectivity. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that DTI-derived FA of left posterior mOFC-rACC uniquely accounted for 29%–34% of the variance in IQ, in comparison to 11%–16% uniquely explained by gray matter volume of the left rACC. Together, left rACC gray matter volume and white matter connectivity between left posterior mOFC and rACC accounted for up to 50% of the variance in general intelligence. This study is to our knowledge the first to examine white matter connectivity between OFC and ACC, two gray matter regions of interests that are very close in physical proximity, and underscores the important independent contributions of variations in rACC gray matter volume and mOFC-rACC white matter connectivity to individual differences in general intelligence.

<![CDATA[The missing link: Predicting connectomes from noisy and partially observed tract tracing data]]>

Our understanding of the wiring map of the brain, known as the connectome, has increased greatly in the last decade, mostly due to technological advancements in neuroimaging techniques and improvements in computational tools to interpret the vast amount of available data. Despite this, with the exception of the C. elegans roundworm, no definitive connectome has been established for any species. In order to obtain this, tracer studies are particularly appealing, as these have proven highly reliable. The downside of tract tracing is that it is costly to perform, and can only be applied ex vivo. In this paper, we suggest that instead of probing all possible connections, hitherto unknown connections may be predicted from the data that is already available. Our approach uses a ‘latent space model’ that embeds the connectivity in an abstract physical space. Regions that are close in the latent space have a high chance of being connected, while regions far apart are most likely disconnected in the connectome. After learning the latent embedding from the connections that we did observe, the latent space allows us to predict connections that have not been probed previously. We apply the methodology to two connectivity data sets of the macaque, where we demonstrate that the latent space model is successful in predicting unobserved connectivity, outperforming two baselines and an alternative model in nearly all cases. Furthermore, we show how the latent spatial embedding may be used to integrate multimodal observations (i.e. anterograde and retrograde tracers) for the mouse neocortex. Finally, our probabilistic approach enables us to make explicit which connections are easy to predict and which prove difficult, allowing for informed follow-up studies.