Evaluating the accuracy of diffusion MRI models in white matter

Ariel Rokem, Jason D Yeatman, Franco Pestilli, Kendrick N Kay, Aviv Mezer, Stefan Van Der Walt, Brian A Wandell

PloS One
April 16, 2015

Models of diffusion MRI within a voxel are useful for making inferences about the properties of the tissue and inferring fiber orientation distribution used by tractography algorithms. A useful model must fit the data accurately. However, evaluations of model-accuracy of commonly used models have not been published before. Here, we evaluate model-accuracy of the two main classes of diffusion MRI models. The diffusion tensor model (DTM) summarizes diffusion as a 3-dimensional Gaussian distribution. Sparse fascicle models (SFM) summarize the signal as a sum of signals originating from a collection of fascicles oriented in different directions. We use cross-validation to assess model-accuracy at different gradient amplitudes (b-values) throughout the white matter. Specifically, we fit each model to all the white matter voxels in one data set and then use the model to predict a second, independent data set. This is the first evaluation of model-accuracy of these models. In most of the white matter the DTM predicts the data more accurately than test-retest reliability; SFM model-accuracy is higher than test-retest reliability and also higher than the DTM model-accuracy, particularly for measurements with (a) a b-value above 1000 in locations containing fiber crossings, and (b) in the regions of the brain surrounding the optic radiations. The SFM also has better parameter-validity: it more accurately estimates the fiber orientation distribution function (fODF) in each voxel, which is useful for fiber tracking.

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