Differential tractography as a track-based biomarker for neuronal injury.
ABSTRACT: Diffusion MRI tractography has been used to map the axonal structure of the human brain, but its ability to detect neuronal injury is yet to be explored. Here we report differential tractography, a new type of tractography that utilizes repeat MRI scans and a novel tracking strategy to map the exact segment of fiber pathways with a neuronal injury. We examined differential tractography on multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and epileptic patients. The results showed that the affected pathways shown by differential tractography matched well with the unique clinical symptoms of the patients, and the false discovery rate of the findings could be estimated using a sham setting to provide a reliability measurement. This novel approach enables a quantitative and objective method to monitor neuronal injury in individuals, allowing for diagnostic and prognostic evaluation of brain diseases.
Project description:Diffusion MRI (dMRI)-based tractography offers unique abilities to map whole-brain structural connections in human and animal brains. However, dMRI-based tractography indirectly measures white matter tracts, with suboptimal accuracy and reliability. Recently, sophisticated methods including constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD) and global tractography have been developed to improve tract reconstructions through modeling of more complex fiber orientations. Our study aimed to determine the accuracy of connectome reconstruction for three dMRI-based tractography approaches: diffusion tensor (DT)-based, CSD-based and global tractography. Therefore, we validated whole brain structural connectome reconstructions based on ten ultrahigh-resolution dMRI rat brain scans and 106 cortical regions, from which varying tractography parameters were compared against standardized neuronal tracer data. All tested tractography methods generated considerable numbers of false positive and false negative connections. There was a parameter range trade-off between sensitivity: 0.06-0.63 interhemispherically and 0.22-0.86 intrahemispherically; and specificity: 0.99-0.60 interhemispherically and 0.99-0.23 intrahemispherically. Furthermore, performance of all tractography methods decreased with increasing spatial distance between connected regions. Similar patterns and trade-offs were found, when we applied spherical deconvolution informed filtering of tractograms, streamline thresholding and group-based average network thresholding. Despite the potential of CSD-based and global tractography to handle complex fiber orientations at voxel level, reconstruction accuracy, especially for long-distance connections, remains a challenge. Hence, connectome reconstruction benefits from varying parameter settings and combination of tractography methods to account for anatomical variation of neuronal pathways.
Project description:Diffusion MRI fiber tractography is widely used to probe the structural connectivity of the brain, with a range of applications in both clinical and basic neuroscience. Despite widespread use, tractography has well-known pitfalls that limits the anatomical accuracy of this technique. Numerous modern methods have been developed to address these shortcomings through advances in acquisition, modeling, and computation. To test whether these advances improve tractography accuracy, we organized the 3-D Validation of Tractography with Experimental MRI (3D-VoTEM) challenge at the ISBI 2018 conference. We made available three unique independent tractography validation datasets - a physical phantom and two ex vivo brain specimens - resulting in 176 distinct submissions from 9 research groups. By comparing results over a wide range of fiber complexities and algorithmic strategies, this challenge provides a more comprehensive assessment of tractography's inherent limitations than has been reported previously. The central results were consistent across all sub-challenges in that, despite advances in tractography methods, the anatomical accuracy of tractography has not dramatically improved in recent years. Taken together, our results independently confirm findings from decades of tractography validation studies, demonstrate inherent limitations in reconstructing white matter pathways using diffusion MRI data alone, and highlight the need for alternative or combinatorial strategies to accurately map the fiber pathways of the brain.
Project description:Interest in structural brain connectivity has grown with the understanding that abnormal neural connections may play a role in neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Small animal connectivity mapping techniques are particularly important for identifying aberrant connectivity in disease models. Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging tractography can provide nondestructive, 3D, brain-wide connectivity maps, but has historically been limited by low spatial resolution, low signal-to-noise ratio, and the difficulty in estimating multiple fiber orientations within a single image voxel. Small animal diffusion tractography can be substantially improved through the combination of ex vivo MRI with exogenous contrast agents, advanced diffusion acquisition and reconstruction techniques, and probabilistic fiber tracking. Here, we present a comprehensive, probabilistic tractography connectome of the mouse brain at microscopic resolution, and a comparison of these data with a neuronal tracer-based connectivity data from the Allen Brain Atlas. This work serves as a reference database for future tractography studies in the mouse brain, and demonstrates the fundamental differences between tractography and neuronal tracer data.
Project description:Gradient-echo MRI has revealed anisotropic magnetic susceptibility in the brain white matter. This magnetic susceptibility anisotropy can be measured and characterized with susceptibility tensor imaging (STI). In this study, a method of fiber tractography based on STI is proposed and demonstrated in the mouse brain. STI experiments of perfusion-fixed mouse brains were conducted at 7.0T. The magnetic susceptibility tensor was calculated for each voxel with regularization and decomposed into its eigensystem. The major eigenvector is found to be aligned with the underlying fiber orientation. Following the orientation of the major eigenvector, we are able to map distinctive fiber pathways in 3D. As a comparison, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and DTI fiber tractography were also conducted on the same specimens. The relationship between STI and DTI fiber tracts was explored with similarities and differences identified. It is anticipated that the proposed method of STI tractography may provide a new way to study white matter fiber architecture. As STI tractography is based on physical principles that are fundamentally different from DTI, it may also be valuable for the ongoing validation of DTI tractography.
Project description:Diffusion MRI fiber tractography has been increasingly used to map the structural connectivity of the human brain. However, this technique is not without limitations; for example, there is a growing concern over anatomically correlated bias in tractography findings. In this study, we demonstrate that there is a bias for fiber tracking algorithms to terminate preferentially on gyral crowns, rather than the banks of sulci. We investigate this issue by comparing diffusion MRI (dMRI) tractography with equivalent measures made on myelin-stained histological sections. We begin by investigating the orientation and trajectories of axons near the white matter/gray matter boundary, and the density of axons entering the cortex at different locations along gyral blades. These results are compared with dMRI orientations and tract densities at the same locations, where we find a significant gyral bias in many gyral blades across the brain. This effect is shown for a range of tracking algorithms, both deterministic and probabilistic, and multiple diffusion models, including the diffusion tensor and a high angular resolution diffusion imaging technique. Additionally, the gyral bias occurs for a range of diffusion weightings, and even for very high-resolution datasets. The bias could significantly affect connectivity results using the current generation of tracking algorithms.
Project description:The thalamus plays an important role in signal relays in the brain, with thalamocortical (TC) neuronal pathways linked to various sensory/cognitive functions. In this study, we aimed to see fetal and postnatal development of the thalamus including neuronal migration to the thalamus and the emergence/maturation of the TC pathways. Pathways from/to the thalami of human postmortem fetuses and in vivo subjects ranging from newborns to adults with no neurological histories were studied using high angular resolution diffusion MR imaging (HARDI) tractography. Pathways likely linked to neuronal migration from the ventricular zone and ganglionic eminence (GE) to the thalami were both successfully detected. Between the ventricular zone and thalami, more tractography pathways were found in anterior compared with posterior regions, which was well in agreement with postnatal observations that the anterior TC segment had more tract count and volume than the posterior segment. Three different pathways likely linked to neuronal migration from the GE to the thalami were detected. No hemispheric asymmetry of the TC pathways was quantitatively observed during development. These results suggest that HARDI tractography is useful to identify multiple differential neuronal migration pathways in human brains, and regional differences in brain development in fetal ages persisted in postnatal development.
Project description:There is evidence from histopathological studies that glioma tumor cells migrate preferentially along large white matter bundles. If the peritumoral white matter structures can be used to predict the likely trajectory of migrating tumor cells outside of the surgical margin, then this information could be used to inform the delineation of radiation therapy (RT) targets. In theory, an anisotropic expansion that takes large white matter bundle anatomy into account may maximize the chances of treating migrating cancer cells and minimize the amount of brain tissue exposed to high doses of ionizing radiation. Diffusion-weighted MRI (DW-MRI) can be used in combination with fiber tracking algorithms to model the trajectory of large white matter pathways using the direction and magnitude of water movement in tissue. The method presented here is a tool for translating a DW-MRI fiber tracking (tractography) dataset into a white matter path length (WMPL) map that assigns each voxel the shortest distance along a streamline back to a specified region of interest (ROI). We present an open-source WMPL tool, implemented in the package Diffusion Imaging in Python (DIPY), and code to convert the resulting WMPL map to anisotropic contours for RT in a commercial treatment planning system. This proof-of-concept lays the groundwork for future studies to evaluate the clinical value of incorporating tractography modeling into treatment planning.
Project description:Tractography uses diffusion MRI to estimate the trajectory and cortical projection zones of white matter fascicles in the living human brain. There are many different tractography algorithms and each requires the user to set several parameters, such as curvature threshold. Choosing a single algorithm with specific parameters poses two challenges. First, different algorithms and parameter values produce different results. Second, the optimal choice of algorithm and parameter value may differ between different white matter regions or different fascicles, subjects, and acquisition parameters. We propose using ensemble methods to reduce algorithm and parameter dependencies. To do so we separate the processes of fascicle generation and evaluation. Specifically, we analyze the value of creating optimized connectomes by systematically combining candidate streamlines from an ensemble of algorithms (deterministic and probabilistic) and systematically varying parameters (curvature and stopping criterion). The ensemble approach leads to optimized connectomes that provide better cross-validated prediction error of the diffusion MRI data than optimized connectomes generated using a single-algorithm or parameter set. Furthermore, the ensemble approach produces connectomes that contain both short- and long-range fascicles, whereas single-parameter connectomes are biased towards one or the other. In summary, a systematic ensemble tractography approach can produce connectomes that are superior to standard single parameter estimates both for predicting the diffusion measurements and estimating white matter fascicles.
Project description:The anatomical wiring of the brain is a central focus in network neuroscience. Diffusion MRI tractography offers the unique opportunity to investigate the brain fiber architecture in vivo and noninvasively. However, its reliability is still highly debated. Here, we explored the ability of diffusion MRI tractography to match invasive anatomical tract-tracing connectivity data of the ferret brain. We also investigated the influence of several state-of-the-art tractography algorithms on this match to ground truth connectivity data. Tract-tracing connectivity data were obtained from retrograde tracer injections into the occipital, parietal, and temporal cortices of adult ferrets. We found that the relative densities of projections identified from the anatomical experiments were highly correlated with the estimates from all the studied diffusion tractography algorithms (Spearman's rho ranging from 0.67 to 0.91), while only small, nonsignificant variations appeared across the tractography algorithms. These results are comparable to findings reported in mouse and monkey, increasing the confidence in diffusion MRI tractography results. Moreover, our results provide insights into the variations of sensitivity and specificity of the tractography algorithms, and hence into the influence of choosing one algorithm over another.