Alessandro Calamuneri 1 , * , † , Alessandro Arrigo 2 , † , Enricomaria Mormina 3 , 4 , Demetrio Milardi 1 , 4 , Alberto Cacciola 1 , 4 , Gaetana Chillemi 1 , Silvia Marino 1 , Michele Gaeta 4 , Angelo Quartarone 1 , 4 , 5
28 August 2018
In the last decades, a number of Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) based techniques have been developed to study non-invasively human brain tissues, especially white matter (WM). In this context, Constrained Spherical Deconvolution (CSD) is recognized as being able to accurately characterize water molecules displacement, as they emerge from the observation of MR diffusion weighted (MR-DW) images. CSD is suggested to be applied on MR-DW datasets consisting of b-values around 3,000 s/mm 2 and at least 45 unique diffusion weighting directions. Below such technical requirements, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DT) remains the most widely accepted model. Unlike CSD, DTI is unable to resolve complex fiber geometries within the brain, thus affecting related tissues quantification. In addition, thanks to CSD, an index called Apparent Fiber Density (AFD) can be measured to estimate intra-axonal volume fraction within WM. In standard clinical settings, diffusion based acquisitions are well below such technical requirements. Therefore, in this study we wanted to extensively compare CSD and DTI model outcomes on really low demanding MR-DW datasets, i.e., consisting of a single shell ( b-value = 1,000 s/mm 2) and only 30 unique diffusion encoding directions. To this end, we performed deterministic and probabilistic tractographic reconstruction of two major WM pathways, namely the Corticospinal Tract and the Arcuate Fasciculus. We estimated and analyzed tensor based features as well as, for the first time, AFD interpretability in our data. By performing multivariate statistics and tract-based ROI analysis, we demonstrate that WM quantification is affected by both the diffusion model and threshold applied to noisy tractographic maps. Consistently with existing literature, we showed that CSD outperforms DTI even in our scenario. Most importantly, for the first time we address the problem of accuracy and interpretation of AFD in a low-demanding DW setup, and show that it is still a biological meaningful measure for the analysis of intra-axonal volume even in clinical settings.