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      Infant Brain Atlases from Neonates to 1- and 2-Year-Olds


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          Studies for infants are usually hindered by the insufficient image contrast, especially for neonates. Prior knowledge, in the form of atlas, can provide additional guidance for the data processing such as spatial normalization, label propagation, and tissue segmentation. Although it is highly desired, there is currently no such infant atlas which caters for all these applications. The reason may be largely due to the dramatic early brain development, image processing difficulties, and the need of a large sample size.


          To this end, after several years of subject recruitment and data acquisition, we have collected a unique longitudinal dataset, involving 95 normal infants (56 males and 39 females) with MRI scanned at 3 ages, i.e., neonate, 1-year-old, and 2-year-old. State-of-the-art MR image segmentation and registration techniques were employed, to construct which include the templates (grayscale average images), tissue probability maps (TPMs), and brain parcellation maps (i.e., meaningful anatomical regions of interest) for each age group. In addition, the longitudinal correspondences between age-specific atlases were also obtained. Experiments of typical infant applications validated that the proposed atlas outperformed other atlases and is hence very useful for infant-related studies.


          We expect that the proposed infant 0–1–2 brain atlases would be significantly conducive to structural and functional studies of the infant brains. These atlases are publicly available in our website, http://bric.unc.edu/ideagroup/free-softwares/.

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          Most cited references52

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          A structural MRI study of human brain development from birth to 2 years.

          Brain development in the first 2 years after birth is extremely dynamic and likely plays an important role in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Knowledge regarding this period is currently quite limited. We studied structural brain development in healthy subjects from birth to 2. Ninety-eight children received structural MRI scans on a Siemens head-only 3T scanner with magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo T1-weighted, and turbo spin echo, dual-echo (proton density and T2 weighted) sequences: 84 children at 2-4 weeks, 35 at 1 year and 26 at 2 years of age. Tissue segmentation was accomplished using a novel automated approach. Lateral ventricle, caudate, and hippocampal volumes were also determined. Total brain volume increased 101% in the first year, with a 15% increase in the second. The majority of hemispheric growth was accounted for by gray matter, which increased 149% in the first year; hemispheric white matter volume increased by only 11%. Cerebellum volume increased 240% in the first year. Lateral ventricle volume increased 280% in the first year, with a small decrease in the second. The caudate increased 19% and the hippocampus 13% from age 1 to age 2. There was robust growth of the human brain in the first two years of life, driven mainly by gray matter growth. In contrast, white matter growth was much slower. Cerebellum volume also increased substantially in the first year of life. These results suggest the structural underpinnings of cognitive and motor development in early childhood, as well as the potential pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders.
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            Enhancement of MR images using registration for signal averaging.

            With the advent of noninvasive neuroimaging, a plethora of digital human neuroanatomical atlases has been developed. The accuracy of these atlases is constrained by the resolution and signal-gathering powers of available imaging equipment. In an attempt to circumvent these limitations and to produce a high resolution in vivo human neuroanatomy, we investigated the usefulness of intrasubject registration for post hoc MR signal averaging. Twenty-seven high resolution (7 x 0.78 and 20 x 1.0 mm3) T1-weighted volumes were acquired from a single subject, along with 12 double echo T2/proton density-weighted volumes. These volumes were automatically registered to a common stereotaxic space in which they were subsampled and intensity averaged. The resulting images were examined for anatomical quality and usefulness for other analytical techniques. The quality of the resulting image from the combination of as few as five T1 volumes was visibly enhanced. The signal-to-noise ratio was expected to increase as the root of the number of contributing scans to 5.2, n = 27. The improvement in the n = 27 average was great enough that fine anatomical details, such as thalamic subnuclei and the gray bridges between the caudate and putamen, became crisply defined. The gray/white matter boundaries were also enhanced, as was the visibility of any finer structure that was surrounded by tissue of varying T1 intensity. The T2 and proton density average images were also of higher quality than single scans, but the improvement was not as dramatic as that of the T1 volumes. Overall, the enhanced signal in the averaged images resulted in higher quality anatomical images, and the data lent themselves to several postprocessing techniques. The high quality of the enhanced images permits novel uses of the data and extends the possibilities for in vivo human neuroanatomy.
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              A probabilistic atlas of the human brain: theory and rationale for its development. The International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM).


                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                14 April 2011
                : 6
                : 4
                : e18746
                [1 ]IDEA Lab, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
                [3 ]MRI Lab, Department of Radiology and BRIC, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America
                Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: DS FS. Performed the experiments: FS GR. Analyzed the data: FS DS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: DS WL JHG HJ GR. Wrote the paper: FS P-TY DS.

                Shi et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                : 14 December 2010
                : 10 March 2011
                Page count
                Pages: 11
                Research Article
                Anatomy and Physiology
                Neurological System
                Signal Processing
                Image Processing
                Anatomy and Physiology
                Neurological System
                Child Development
                Developmental and Pediatric Neurology
                Diagnostic Radiology
                Magnetic Resonance Imaging



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