31 March 2020
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers the possibility to non-invasively map the brain's metabolic oxygen consumption (CMRO 2), which is essential for understanding and monitoring neural function in both health and disease. However, in depth study of oxygen metabolism with MRI has so far been hindered by the lack of robust methods. One MRI method of mapping CMRO 2 is based on the simultaneous acquisition of cerebral blood flow (CBF) and blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) weighted images during respiratory modulation of both oxygen and carbon dioxide. Although this dual-calibrated methodology has shown promise in the research setting, current analysis methods are unstable in the presence of noise and/or are computationally demanding. In this paper, we present a machine learning implementation for the multi-parametric assessment of dual-calibrated fMRI data. The proposed method aims to address the issues of stability, accuracy, and computational overhead, removing significant barriers to the investigation of oxygen metabolism with MRI. The method utilizes a time-frequency transformation of the acquired perfusion and BOLD-weighted data, from which appropriate feature vectors are selected for training of machine learning regressors. The implemented machine learning methods are chosen for their robustness to noise and their ability to map complex non-linear relationships (such as those that exist between BOLD signal weighting and blood oxygenation). An extremely randomized trees (ET) regressor is used to estimate resting blood flow and a multi-layer perceptron (MLP) is used to estimate CMRO 2 and the oxygen extraction fraction (OEF). Synthetic data with additive noise are used to train the regressors, with data simulated to cover a wide range of physiologically plausible parameters. The performance of the implemented analysis method is compared to published methods both in simulation and with in-vivo data ( n = 30). The proposed method is demonstrated to significantly reduce computation time, error, and proportional bias in both CMRO 2 and OEF estimates. The introduction of the proposed analysis pipeline has the potential to not only increase the detectability of metabolic difference between groups of subjects, but may also allow for single subject examinations within a clinical context.