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Magn Reson Med. 2004 Nov;52(5):1146-55.

Quantitative analysis of diffusion tensor orientation: theoretical framework.

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Department of Medical Physics, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53705, USA.


Diffusion-tensor MRI (DT-MRI) yields information about the magnitude, anisotropy, and orientation of water diffusion of brain tissues. Although white matter tractography and eigenvector color maps provide visually appealing displays of white matter tract organization, they do not easily lend themselves to quantitative and statistical analysis. In this study, a set of visual and quantitative tools for the investigation of tensor orientations in the human brain was developed. Visual tools included rose diagrams, which are spherical coordinate histograms of the major eigenvector directions, and 3D scatterplots of the major eigenvector angles. A scatter matrix of major eigenvector directions was used to describe the distribution of major eigenvectors in a defined anatomic region. A measure of eigenvector dispersion was developed to describe the degree of eigenvector coherence in the selected region. These tools were used to evaluate directional organization and the interhemispheric symmetry of DT-MRI data in five healthy human brains and two patients with infiltrative diseases of the white matter tracts. In normal anatomical white matter tracts, a high degree of directional coherence and interhemispheric symmetry was observed. The infiltrative diseases appeared to alter the eigenvector properties of affected white matter tracts, showing decreased eigenvector coherence and interhemispheric symmetry. This novel approach distills the rich, 3D information available from the diffusion tensor into a form that lends itself to quantitative analysis and statistical hypothesis testing.

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