Application of neuroanatomical features to tractography clustering

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Diffusion tensor imaging allows unprecedented insight into brain neural connectivity in vivo by allowing reconstruction of neuronal tracts via captured patterns of water diffusion in white matter microstructures. However, tractography algorithms often output hundreds of thousands of fibers, rendering subsequent data analysis intractable. As a remedy, fiber clustering techniques are able to group fibers into dozens of bundles and thus facilitate analyses. Most existing fiber clustering methods rely on geometrical information of fibers, by viewing them as curves in 3D Euclidean space. The important neuroanatomical aspect of fibers, however, is ignored. In this article, the neuroanatomical information of each fiber is encapsulated in the associativity vector, which functions as the unique “fingerprint” of the fiber. Specifically, each entry in the associativity vector describes the relationship between the fiber and a certain anatomical ROI in a fuzzy manner. The value of the entry approaches 1 if the fiber is spatially related to the ROI at high confidence; on the contrary, the value drops closer to 0. The confidence of the ROI is calculated by diffusing the ROI according to the underlying fibers from tractography. In particular, we have adopted the fast marching method for simulation of ROI diffusion. Using the associativity vectors of fibers, we further model fibers as observations sampled from multivariate Gaussian mixtures in the feature space. To group all fibers into relevant major bundles, an expectation-maximization clustering approach is employed. Experimental results indicate that our method results in anatomically meaningful bundles that are highly consistent across subjects. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2089–2102, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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