Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) is a non-invasive way of imaging white matter tracts in the human brain. DW-MRIs are usually acquired using echo-planar imaging (EPI) with high gradient fields, which could introduce severe geometric distortions that interfere with further analyses. Most tools for correcting distortion require two minimally weighted DW-MRI images (B0) acquired with different phase-encoding directions, and they can take hours to process per subject. Since a great amount of diffusion data are only acquired with a single phase-encoding direction, the application of existing approaches is limited. We propose a deep learning-based registration approach to correct distortion using only the B0 acquired from a single phase-encoding direction. Specifically, we register undistorted T1-weighted images and distorted B0 to remove the distortion through a deep learning model. We apply a differentiable mutual information loss during training to improve inter-modality alignment. Experiments on the Human Connectome Project dataset show the proposed method outperforms SyN and VoxelMorph on several metrics, and only takes a few seconds to process one subject.
Data-driven thalamic nuclei parcellation depends on high-quality manual annotations. However, the small size and low contrast changes among thalamic nuclei, yield annotations that are often incomplete, noisy, or ambiguously labelled. To train a robust thalamic nuclei parcellation model with noisy annotations, we propose a label propagation algorithm based on random walker to refine the annotations before model training. A two-step model was trained to generate first the whole thalamus and then the nuclei masks. We conducted experiments on a mild traumatic brain injury~(mTBI) dataset with noisy thalamic nuclei annotations. Our model outperforms current state-of-the-art thalamic nuclei parcellations by a clear margin. We believe our method can also facilitate the training of other parcellation models with noisy labels.
Connectivity information derived from diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance images~(DW-MRIs) plays an important role in studying human subcortical gray matter structures. However, due to the $O(N^2)$ complexity of computing the connectivity of each voxel to every other voxel (or multiple ROIs), the current practice of extracting connectivity information is highly inefficient. This makes the processing of high-resolution images and population-level analyses very computationally demanding. To address this issue, we propose a more efficient way to extract connectivity information; briefly, we consider two regions/voxels to be connected if a white matter fiber streamline passes through them -- no matter where the streamline originates. We consider the thalamus parcellation task for demonstration purposes; our experiments show that our approach brings a 30 to 120 times speedup over traditional approaches with comparable qualitative parcellation results. We also demonstrate high-resolution connectivity features can be super-resolved from low-resolution DW-MRI in our framework. Together, these two innovations enable higher resolution connectivity analysis from DW-MRI. Our source code is availible at jasonbian97.github.io/fastcod.
Accurate tongue motion estimation is essential for tongue function evaluation. The harmonic phase processing (HARP) method and the phase vector incompressible registration algorithm (PVIRA) based on HARP can generate motion estimates from tagged MRI images, but they suffer from tag jumping due to large motions. This paper proposes a new registration method by combining the stationary velocity fields produced by PVIRA between successive time frames as a new initialization of the final registration stage to avoid tag jumping. The experiment results demonstrate the proposed method can avoid tag jumping and outperform the existing methods on tongue motion estimates.
Tagged magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used for decades to observe and quantify the detailed motion of deforming tissue. However, this technique faces several challenges such as tag fading, large motion, long computation times, and difficulties in obtaining diffeomorphic incompressible flow fields. To address these issues, this paper presents a novel unsupervised phase-based 3D motion estimation technique for tagged MRI. We introduce two key innovations. First, we apply a sinusoidal transformation to the harmonic phase input, which enables end-to-end training and avoids the need for phase interpolation. Second, we propose a Jacobian determinant-based learning objective to encourage incompressible flow fields for deforming biological tissues. Our method efficiently estimates 3D motion fields that are accurate, dense, and approximately diffeomorphic and incompressible. The efficacy of the method is assessed using human tongue motion during speech, and includes both healthy controls and patients that have undergone glossectomy. We show that the method outperforms existing approaches, and also exhibits improvements in speed, robustness to tag fading, and large tongue motion.
The thalamus is a subcortical gray matter structure that plays a key role in relaying sensory and motor signals within the brain. Its nuclei can atrophy or otherwise be affected by neurological disease and injuries including mild traumatic brain injury. Segmenting both the thalamus and its nuclei is challenging because of the relatively low contrast within and around the thalamus in conventional magnetic resonance (MR) images. This paper explores imaging features to determine key tissue signatures that naturally cluster, from which we can parcellate thalamic nuclei. Tissue contrasts include T1-weighted and T2-weighted images, MR diffusion measurements including FA, mean diffusivity, Knutsson coefficients that represent fiber orientation, and synthetic multi-TI images derived from FGATIR and T1-weighted images. After registration of these contrasts and isolation of the thalamus, we use the uniform manifold approximation and projection (UMAP) method for dimensionality reduction to produce a low-dimensional representation of the data within the thalamus. Manual labeling of the thalamus provides labels for our UMAP embedding from which k nearest neighbors can be used to label new unseen voxels in that same UMAP embedding. N -fold cross-validation of the method reveals comparable performance to state-of-the-art methods for thalamic parcellation.