Construction of a stereotaxic DTI atlas with full diffusion tensor information for studying white matter maturation from childhood to adolescence using tractography-based segmentations

Judith S Verhoeven, Caroline A Sage, Alexander Leemans, Wim Van Hecke, Dorothée Callaert, Ronald Peeters, Paul De Cock, Lieven Lagae, Stefan Sunaert
Human Brain Mapping 2010, 31 (3): 470-86
Reconstruction of white matter (WM) fiber tracts based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is increasingly being used in clinical and research settings to study normal and pathological WM tissue as well as the maturation of this WM tissue. Such fiber tracking (FT) methodology, however, is highly dependent on the manual delineation of anatomical landmarks and the algorithm settings, often rendering the reproducibility and reliability questionable. Predefining these regions of interest on a fractional anisotropy (FA) atlas in standard space has already been shown to improve the reliability of FT results. In this paper, we constructed a new DTI atlas, which contains the complete diffusion tensor information in ICBM152 coordinates. From this high-dimensional DTI atlas, and using robust FT protocols, we reconstructed a large number of WM tracts. Subsequently, we created tract masks from these fiber tract bundles and evaluated the atlas framework by comparing the reproducibility of the results obtained from our standardized tract masks with regions-of-interest labels from the conventional FA-based WM atlas. Finally, we assessed laterality and age-related WM changes in 42 normal subjects aged 0 to 18 years using these tractography-derived tract segmentations. In agreement with previous literature, we observed an FA increase with age, which was mainly due to the decrease of perpendicular diffusivity. In addition, major functional pathways in the language, motor, and limbic system, showed a significant asymmetry in terms of the observed diffusion metrics.

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