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Image Analysis

SCI's imaging work addresses fundamental questions in 2D and 3D image processing, including filtering, segmentation, surface reconstruction, and shape analysis. In low-level image processing, this effort has produce new nonparametric methods for modeling image statistics, which have resulted in better algorithms for denoising and reconstruction. Work with particle systems has led to new methods for visualizing and analyzing 3D surfaces. Our work in image processing also includes applications of advanced computing to 3D images, which has resulted in new parallel algorithms and real-time implementations on graphics processing units (GPUs). Application areas include medical image analysis, biological image processing, defense, environmental monitoring, and oil and gas.


Ross Whitaker


Sarang Joshi

Shape Statistics
Brain Atlasing

Tolga Tasdizen

Image Processing
Machine Learning

Tom Fletcher

Shape Statistics
Diffusion Tensor Analysis

Chris Johnson

Diffusion Tensor Analysis

Image Analysis Project Sites:

Publications in Image Analysis:

Spatio-temporal Image Analysis for Longitudinal and Time-Series Image Data,
S. Durrleman, T.P. Fletcher, G. Gerig, M. Niethammer, X. Pennec (Eds.). In Proceedings of the Third International Workshop, STIA 2014, Image Processing, Computer Vision, Pattern Recognition, and Graphics, Vol. 8682, Springer LNCS, 2015.
ISBN: 978-3-319-14905-9

This book constitutes the thoroughly refereed post-conference proceedings of the Third
International Workshop on Spatio-temporal Image Analysis for Longitudinal and Time-
Series Image Data, STIA 2014, held in conjunction with MICCAI 2014 in Boston, MA, USA, in
September 2014.

The 7 papers presented in this volume were carefully reviewed and selected from 15
submissions. They are organized in topical sections named: longitudinal registration and
shape modeling, longitudinal modeling, reconstruction from longitudinal data, and 4D
image processing.

Multiatlas Segmentation as Nonparametric Regression
S.P. Awate, R.T. Whitaker. In IEEE Trans Med Imaging, April, 2014.
PubMed ID: 24802528

This paper proposes a novel theoretical framework to model and analyze the statistical characteristics of a wide range of segmentation methods that incorporate a database of label maps or atlases; such methods are termed as label fusion or multiatlas segmentation. We model these multiatlas segmentation problems as nonparametric regression problems in the high-dimensional space of image patches. We analyze the nonparametric estimator's convergence behavior that characterizes expected segmentation error as a function of the size of the multiatlas database. We show that this error has an analytic form involving several parameters that are fundamental to the specific segmentation problem (determined by the chosen anatomical structure, imaging modality, registration algorithm, and labelfusion algorithm). We describe how to estimate these parameters and show that several human anatomical structures exhibit the trends modeled analytically. We use these parameter estimates to optimize the regression estimator. We show that the expected error for large database sizes is well predicted by models learned on small databases. Thus, a few expert segmentations can help predict the database sizes required to keep the expected error below a specified tolerance level. Such cost-benefit analysis is crucial for deploying clinical multiatlas segmentation systems.

Joint Longitudinal Modeling of Brain Appearance in Multimodal MRI for the Characterization of Early Brain Developmental Processes
A. Vardhan, N. Sadeghi, C. Vachet, J. Piven, G. Gerig. In Spatiotemporal Image Analysis for Longitudinal and Time-Series Image Data (STIA'14) , LNCS. MICCAI'14, Springer Verlag, June, 2014.

Early brain maturational processes such as myelination manifest as changes in the relative appearance of white-gray matter tissue classes in MR images. Imaging modalities such as T1W (T1-Weighted) and T2W (T2-Weighted) MRI each display specific patterns of appearance change associated with distinct neurobiological components of these maturational processes. In this paper we present a framework to jointly model multimodal appearance changes across time for a longitudinal imaging dataset, resulting in quantitative assessment of the patterns of early brain maturation not yet available to clinicians. We measure appearance by quantifying contrast between white and gray matter in terms of the distance between their intensity distributions, a method demonstrated to be relatively stable to interscan variability. A multivariate nonlinear mixed effects (NLME) model is used for joint statistical modeling of this contrast measure across multiple imaging modalities. The multivariate NLME procedure considers correlations between modalities in addition to intra-modal variability. The parameters of the logistic growth function used in NLME modeling provide useful quantitative information about the timing and progression of contrast change in multimodal datasets. Inverted patterns of relative white-gray matter intensity gradient that are observable in T1W scans with respect to T2W scans are characterized by the SIR (Signal Intensity Ratio). The CONTDIR (Contrast Direction) which measures the direction of the gradient at each time point relative to that in the adult-like scan adds a directional attribute to contrast. The major contribution of this paper is a framework for joint multimodal temporal modeling of white-gray matter MRI contrast change and estimation of subject-specific and population growth trajectories. Results confirm qualitative descriptions of growth patterns in pediatric radiology studies and our new quantitative modeling scheme has the potential to advance understanding of variability of brain tissue maturation and to eventually differentiate normal from abnormal growth for early diagnosis of pathology.

Diffeomorphic Shape Trajectories for Improved Longitudinal Segmentation and Statistics
P. Muralidharan, J. Fishbaugh, H.J. Johnson, S. Durrleman, J.S. Paulsen, G. Gerig, P.T. Fletcher. In Proceedings of Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention (MICCAI), 2014.

Longitudinal imaging studies involve tracking changes in individuals by repeated image acquisition over time. The goal of these studies is to quantify biological shape variability within and across individuals, and also to distinguish between normal and disease populations. However, data variability is influenced by outside sources such as image acquisition, image calibration, human expert judgment, and limited robustness of segmentation and registration algorithms. In this paper, we propose a two-stage method for the statistical analysis of longitu- dinal shape. In the first stage, we estimate diffeomorphic shape trajectories for each individual that minimize inconsistencies in segmented shapes across time. This is followed by a longitudinal mixed-effects statistical model in the second stage for testing differences in shape trajectories between groups. We apply our method to a longitudinal database from PREDICT-HD and demonstrate our ap- proach reduces unwanted variability for both shape and derived measures, such as volume. This leads to greater statistical power to distinguish differences in shape trajectory between healthy subjects and subjects with a genetic biomarker for Huntington's disease (HD).

Motion is inevitable: The impact of motion correction schemes on hardi reconstructions
S. Elhabian, Y. Gur, J. Piven, M. Styner, I. Leppert, G. Bruce Pike, G. Gerig. In Proceedings of the MICCAI 2014 Workshop on Computational Diffusion MRI, September, 2014.

Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) is known to be prone to artifacts related to motion originating from subject movement, cardiac pulsation and breathing, but also to mechanical issues such as table vibrations. Given the necessity for rigorous quality control and motion correction, users are often left to use simple heuristics to select correction schemes, but do not fully understand the consequences of such choices on the final analysis, moreover being at risk to introduce confounding factors in population studies. This paper reports work in progress towards a comprehensive evaluation framework of HARDI motion correction to support selection of optimal methods to correct for even subtle motion. We make use of human brain HARDI data from a well controlled motion experiment to simulate various degrees of motion corruption. Choices for correction include exclusion or registration of motion corrupted directions, with different choices of interpolation. The comparative evaluation is based on studying effects of motion correction on three different metrics commonly used when using DWI data, including similarity of fiber orientation distribution functions (fODFs), global brain connectivity via Graph Diffusion Distance (GDD), and reproducibility of prominent and anatomically defined fiber tracts. Effects of various settings are systematically explored and illustrated, leading to the somewhat surprising conclusion that a best choice is the alignment and interpolation of all DWI directions, not only directions considered as corrupted.

Prenatal cocaine effects on brain structure in early infancy
K. Grewen, M. Burchinal, C. Vachet, S. Gouttard, J.H. Gilmore, W. Lin, J. Johns, M. Elam, G. Gerig. In NeuroImage, Vol. 101, pp. 114--123. November, 2014.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.06.070

Prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE) is related to subtle deficits in cognitive and behavioral function in infancy, childhood and adolescence. Very little is known about the effects of in utero PCE on early brain development that may contribute to these impairments. The purpose of this study was to examine brain structural differences in infants with and without PCE. We conducted MRI scans of newborns (mean age = 5 weeks) to determine cocaine's impact on early brain structural development. Subjects were three groups of infants: 33 with PCE co-morbid with other drugs, 46 drug-free controls and 40 with prenatal exposure to other drugs (nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opiates, SSRIs) but without cocaine. Infants with PCE exhibited lesser total gray matter (GM) volume and greater total cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) volume compared with controls and infants with non-cocaine drug exposure. Analysis of regional volumes revealed that whole brain GM differences were driven primarily by lesser GM in prefrontal and frontal brain regions in infants with PCE, while more posterior regions (parietal, occipital) did not differ across groups. Greater CSF volumes in PCE infants were present in prefrontal, frontal and parietal but not occipital regions. Greatest differences (GM reduction, CSF enlargement) in PCE infants were observed in dorsal prefrontal cortex. Results suggest that PCE is associated with structural deficits in neonatal cortical gray matter, specifically in prefrontal and frontal regions involved in executive function and inhibitory control. Longitudinal study is required to determine whether these early differences persist and contribute to deficits in cognitive functions and enhanced risk for drug abuse seen at school age and in later life.

Morphometry of anatomical shape complexes with dense deformations and sparse parameters
S. Durrleman, M. Prastawa, N. Charon, J.R. Korenberg, S. Joshi, G. Gerig, A. Trouvé. In NeuroImage, 2014.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.06.043

We propose a generic method for the statistical analysis of collections of anatomical shape complexes, namely sets of surfaces that were previously segmented and labeled in a group of subjects. The method estimates an anatomical model, the template complex, that is representative of the population under study. Its shape reflects anatomical invariants within the dataset. In addition, the method automatically places control points near the most variable parts of the template complex. Vectors attached to these points are parameters of deformations of the ambient 3D space. These deformations warp the template to each subject’s complex in a way that preserves the organization of the anatomical structures. Multivariate statistical analysis is applied to these deformation parameters to test for group differences. Results of the statistical analysis are then expressed in terms of deformation patterns of the template complex, and can be visualized and interpreted.

The user needs only to specify the topology of the template complex and the number of control points. The method then automatically estimates the shape of the template complex, the optimal position of control points and deformation parameters. The proposed approach is completely generic with respect to any type of application and well adapted to efficient use in clinical studies, in that it does not require point correspondence across surfaces and is robust to mesh imperfections such as holes, spikes, inconsistent orientation or irregular meshing.

The approach is illustrated with a neuroimaging study of Down syndrome (DS). Results demonstrate that the complex of deep brain structures shows a statistically significant shape difference between control and DS subjects. The deformation-based modelingis able to classify subjects with very high specificity and sensitivity, thus showing important generalization capability even given a low sample size. We show that results remain significant even if the number of control points, and hence the dimension of variables in the statistical model, are drastically reduced. The analysis may even suggest that parsimonious models have an increased statistical performance.

The method has been implemented in the software Deformetrica, which is publicly available at


Keywords: morphometry, deformation, varifold, anatomy, shape, statistics

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

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.

Subject-specific prediction using nonlinear population modeling: Application to early brain maturation from DTI
N. Sadeghi, P.T. Fletcher, M. Prastawa, J.H. Gilmore, G. Gerig. In Proceedings of Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI 2014), 2014.

The term prediction implies expected outcome in the future, often based on a model and statistical inference. Longitudinal imaging studies offer the possibility to model temporal change trajectories of anatomy across populations of subjects. In the spirit of subject-specific analysis, such normative models can then be used to compare data from new subjects to the norm and to study progression of disease or to predict outcome. This paper follows a statistical inference approach and presents a framework for prediction of future observations based on past measurements and population statistics. We describe prediction in the context of nonlinear mixed effects modeling (NLME) where the full reference population's statistics (estimated fixed effects, variance-covariance of random effects, variance of noise) is used along with the individual's available observations to predict its trajectory. The proposed methodology is generic in regard to application domains. Here, we demonstrate analysis of early infant brain maturation from longitudinal DTI with up to three time points. Growth as observed in DTI-derived scalar invariants is modeled with a parametric function, its parameters being input to NLME population modeling. Trajectories of new subject's data are estimated when using no observation, only the rst or the first two time points. Leave-one-out experiments result in statistics on differences between actual and predicted observations. We also simulate a clinical scenario of prediction on multiple categories, where trajectories predicted from multiple models are classified based on maximum likelihood criteria.

GuideME: Slice-guided Semiautomatic Multivariate Exploration of Volumes
L. Zhou, C.D. Hansen. In Computer Graphics Forum, Vol. 33, No. 3, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 151--160. jun, 2014.
DOI: 10.1111/cgf.12371

Multivariate volume visualization is important for many applications including petroleum exploration and medicine. State-of-the-art tools allow users to interactively explore volumes with multiple linked parameter-space views. However, interactions in the parameter space using trial-and-error may be unintuitive and time consuming. Furthermore, switching between different views may be distracting. In this paper, we propose GuideME: a novel slice-guided semiautomatic multivariate volume exploration approach. Specifically, the approach comprises four stages: attribute inspection, guided uncertainty-aware lasso creation, automated feature extraction and optional spatial fine tuning and visualization. Throughout the exploration process, the user does not need to interact with the parameter views at all and examples of complex real-world data demonstrate the usefulness, efficiency and ease-of-use of our method.

Network inefficiencies in autism spectrum disorder at 24 months
J.D. Lewis, A.C. Evans, J.R. Pruett, K. Botteron, L. Zwaigenbaum, A. Estes, G. Gerig, L. Collins, P. Kostopoulos, R. McKinstry, S. Dager, S. Paterson, R. Schultz, M. Styner, H. Hazlett, J. Piven, IBIS network. In Translational Psychiatry, Vol. 4, No. 5, Nature Publishing Group, pp. e388. May, 2014.
DOI: 10.1038/tp.2014.24

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder defined by behavioural symptoms that emerge during the first years of life. Associated with these symptoms are differences in the structure of a wide array of brain regions, and in the connectivity between these regions. However, the use of cohorts with large age variability and participants past the generally recognized age of onset of the defining behaviours means that many of the reported abnormalities may be a result of cascade effects of developmentally earlier deviations. This study assessed differences in connectivity in ASD at the age at which the defining behaviours first become clear. The participants were 113 24-month-olds at high risk for ASD, 31 of whom were classified as ASD, and 23 typically developing 24-month-olds at low risk for ASD. Utilizing diffusion data to obtain measures of the length and strength of connections between anatomical regions, we performed an analysis of network efficiency. Our results showed significantly decreased local and global efficiency over temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes in high-risk infants classified as ASD, relative to both low- and high-risk infants not classified as ASD. The frontal lobes showed only a reduction in global efficiency in Broca's area. Additionally, these same regions showed an inverse relation between efficiency and symptom severity across the high-risk infants. The results suggest delay or deficits in infants with ASD in the optimization of both local and global aspects of network structure in regions involved in processing auditory and visual stimuli, language, and nonlinguistic social stimuli.

Keywords: autism, infant siblings, connectivity, network analysis, efficiency

Characterizing growth patterns in longitudinal MRI using image contrast
A. Vardhan, M. Prastawa, C. Vachet, J. Piven, G. Gerig. In Proceedings of Medical Imaging 2014: Image Processing, 2014.

Understanding the growth patterns of the early brain is crucial to the study of neuro-development. In the early stages of brain growth, a rapid sequence of biophysical and chemical processes take place. A crucial component of these processes, known as myelination, consists of the formation of a myelin sheath around a nerve fiber, enabling the effective transmission of neural impulses. As the brain undergoes myelination, there is a subsequent change in the contrast between gray matter and white matter as observed in MR scans. In this work, graywhite matter contrast is proposed as an effective measure of appearance which is relatively invariant to location, scanner type, and scanning conditions. To validate this, contrast is computed over various cortical regions for an adult human phantom. MR (Magnetic Resonance) images of the phantom were repeatedly generated using different scanners, and at different locations. Contrast displays less variability over changing conditions of scan compared to intensity-based measures, demonstrating that it is less dependent than intensity on external factors. Additionally, contrast is used to analyze longitudinal MR scans of the early brain, belonging to healthy controls and Down's Syndrome (DS) patients. Kernel regression is used to model subject-specific trajectories of contrast changing with time. Trajectories of contrast changing with time, as well as time-based biomarkers extracted from contrast modeling, show large differences between groups. The preliminary applications of contrast based analysis indicate its future potential to reveal new information not covered by conventional volumetric or deformation-based analysis, particularly for distinguishing between normal and abnormal growth patterns.

Semi-automated application for kidney motion correction and filtration analysis in MR renography
F. Rousset, C. Vachet, C. Conlin, M. Heilbrun, J.L. Zhang, V.S. Lee, G. Gerig. In Proceeding of the 2014 Joint Annual Meeting ISMRM-ESMRMB, pp. (accepted). 2014.

Altered renal function commonly affects patients with cirrhosis, a consequence of chronic liver disease. From lowdose contrast material-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) renography, we can estimate the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), an important parameter to assess renal function. Two-dimensional MR images are acquired every 2 seconds for approximately 5 minutes during free breathing, which results in a dynamic series of 140 images representing kidney filtration over time. This specific acquisition presents dynamic contrast changes but is also challenged by organ motion due to breathing. Rather than use conventional image registration techniques, we opted for an alternative method based on object detection. We developed a novel analysis framework available under a stand-alone toolkit to efficiently register dynamic kidney series, manually select regions of interest, visualize the concentration curves for these ROIs, and fit them into a model to obtain GFR values. This open-source cross-platform application is written in C++, using the Insight Segmentation and Registration Toolkit (ITK) library, and QT4 as a graphical user interface.

4D Modeling of Infant Brain Growth in Down's Syndrome and Controls from longitudinal MRI
C. Vachet, H.C. Hazlett, J. Piven, G. Gerig. In Proceeding of the 2014 Joint Annual Meeting ISMRM-ESMRMB, pp. (accepted). 2014.

Modeling of early brain growth trajectories from longitudinal MRI will provide new insight into neurodevelopmental characteristics, timing and type of changes in neurological disorders from controls. In addition to an ongoing large-scale infant autism neuroimaging study 1, we recruited 4 infants with Down’s syndrome (DS) in order to evaluate newly developed methods for 4D segmentation from longitudinal infant MRI, and for temporal modeling of brain growth trajectories. Specifically to Down's, a comparison of patterns of full brain and lobar tissue growth may lead to better insight into the observed variability of cognitive development and neurological effects, and may help with development of disease-modifying therapeutic intervention.

Subject-Motion Correction in HARDI Acquisitions: Choices and Consequences,
S. Elhabian, Y. Gur, J. Piven, M. Styner, I. Leppert, G.B. Pike, G. Gerig. In Proceeding of the 2014 Joint Annual Meeting ISMRM-ESMRMB, pp. (accepted). 2014.
DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00240

Unlike anatomical MRI where subject motion can most often be assessed by quick visual quality control, the detection, characterization and evaluation of the impact of motion in diffusion imaging are challenging issues due to the sensitivity of diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) to motion originating from vibration, cardiac pulsation, breathing and head movement. Post-acquisition motion correction is widely performed, e.g. using the open-source DTIprep software [1,2] or TORTOISE [3], but in particular in high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI), users often do not fully understand the consequences of different types of correction schemes on the final analysis, and whether those choices may introduce confounding factors when comparing populations. Although there is excellent theoretical work on the number of directional DWI and its effect on the quality and crossing fiber resolution of orientation distribution functions (ODF), standard users lack clear guidelines and recommendations in practical settings. This research investigates motion correction using transformation and interpolation of affected DWI directions versus the exclusion of subsets of DWI’s, and its effects on diffusion measurements on the reconstructed fiber orientation diffusion functions and on the estimated fiber orientations. The various effects are systematically studied via a newly developed synthetic phantom and also on real HARDI data.

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

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].

UNC-Utah NA-MIC framework for DTI fiber tract analysis
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. In Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Vol. 7, No. 51, January, 2014.
DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00051

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

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

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

Multi-atlas segmentation of subcortical brain structures via the AutoSeg software pipeline
J. Wang, C. Vachet, A. Rumple, S. Gouttard, C. Ouzie, E. Perrot, G. Du, X. Huang, G. Gerig, M.A. Styner. In Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Vol. 8, No. 7, 2014.
DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2014.00007

Automated segmenting and labeling of individual brain anatomical regions, in MRI are challenging, due to the issue of individual structural variability. Although atlas-based segmentation has shown its potential for both tissue and structure segmentation, due to the inherent natural variability as well as disease-related changes in MR appearance, a single atlas image is often inappropriate to represent the full population of datasets processed in a given neuroimaging study. As an alternative for the case of single atlas segmentation, the use of multiple atlases alongside label fusion techniques has been introduced using a set of individual “atlases” that encompasses the expected variability in the studied population. In our study, we proposed a multi-atlas segmentation scheme with a novel graph-based atlas selection technique. We first paired and co-registered all atlases and the subject MR scans. A directed graph with edge weights based on intensity and shape similarity between all MR scans is then computed. The set of neighboring templates is selected via clustering of the graph. Finally, weighted majority voting is employed to create the final segmentation over the selected atlases. This multi-atlas segmentation scheme is used to extend a single-atlas-based segmentation toolkit entitled AutoSeg, which is an open-source, extensible C++ based software pipeline employing BatchMake for its pipeline scripting, developed at the Neuro Image Research and Analysis Laboratories of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. AutoSeg performs N4 intensity inhomogeneity correction, rigid registration to a common template space, automated brain tissue classification based skull-stripping, and the multi-atlas segmentation. The multi-atlas-based AutoSeg has been evaluated on subcortical structure segmentation with a testing dataset of 20 adult brain MRI scans and 15 atlas MRI scans. The AutoSeg achieved mean Dice coefficients of 81.73% for the subcortical structures.

Keywords: segmentation, Registration, MRI, Atlas, Brain, Insight Toolkit

Generalized HARDI Invariants by Method of Tensor Contraction
Y. Gur, C.R. Johnson. In Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI), pp. 718--721. April, 2014.

We propose a 3D object recognition technique to construct rotation invariant feature vectors for high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI). This method uses the spherical harmonics (SH) expansion and is based on generating rank-1 contravariant tensors using the SH coefficients, and contracting them with covariant tensors to obtain invariants. The proposed technique enables the systematic construction of invariants for SH expansions of any order using simple mathematical operations. In addition, it allows construction of a large set of invariants, even for low order expansions, thus providing rich feature vectors for image analysis tasks such as classification and segmentation. In this paper, we use this technique to construct feature vectors for eighth-order fiber orientation distributions (FODs) reconstructed using constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD). Using simulated and in vivo brain data, we show that these invariants are robust to noise, enable voxel-wise classification, and capture meaningful information on the underlying white matter structure.

Keywords: Diffusion MRI, HARDI, invariants