AnatomiCuts: Hierarchical clustering of tractography streamlines based on anatomical similarity

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Diffusion MRI tractography produces massive sets of streamlines that contain a wealth of information on brain connections. The size of these datasets creates a need for automated clustering methods to group the streamlines into meaningful bundles. Conventional clustering techniques group streamlines based on their spatial coordinates. Neuroanatomists, however, define white-matter bundles based on the anatomical structures that they go through or next to, rather than their spatial coordinates. Thus we propose a similarity measure for clustering streamlines based on their position relative to cortical and subcortical brain regions. We incorporate this measure into a hierarchical clustering algorithm and compare it to a measure that relies on Euclidean distance, using data from the Human Connectome Project. We show that the anatomical similarity measure leads to a Symbol improvement in the overlap of clusters with manually labeled tracts. Importantly, this is achieved without introducing any prior information from a tract atlas into the clustering algorithm, therefore without imposing the existence of any named tracts.

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