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Magn Reson Imaging. 2013 May;31(4):585-95. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2012.10.016. Epub 2012 Dec 8.

Fitting of two-tensor models without ad hoc assumptions to detect crossing fibers using clinical DWI data.

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Institute of Biomathematics and Biometry, Helmholtz Center Munich HMGU, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstaedter Landstrasse 1, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.


Analysis of crossing fibers is a challenging topic in recent diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Resolving crossing fibers is expected to bring major changes to present tractography results based on the standard tensor model. Model free approaches, like Q-ball or diffusion spectrum imaging, as well as multi-tensor models are used to unfold the different diffusion directions mixed in a voxel of DWI data. Due to its seeming simplicity, the two-tensor model (TTM) is applied frequently to provide two positive-definite tensors and the relative population fraction modeling two crossing fiber branches. However, problems with uniqueness and noise instability are apparent. To stabilize the fit, several of the 13 physical parameters are fixed ad hoc, before fitting the model to the data. Our analysis of the TTM aims at fitting procedures where ad hoc parameters are avoided. Revealing sources of instability, we show that the model's inherent ambiguity can be reduced to one scalar parameter which only influences the fraction and the eigenvalues of the TTM, whereas the diffusion directions are not affected. Based on this, two fitting strategies are proposed: the parsimonious strategy detects the main diffusion directions without extra parameter fixation, to determine the eigenvalues and the population fraction an empirically motivated condition must be added. The expensive strategy determines all 13 physical parameters of the TTM by a fit to DWIs alone; no additional assumption is necessary. Ill-posedness of the model in case of noisy data is cured by denoising of the data and by L-curve regularization combined with global minimization performing a least-squares fit of the full model. By model simulations and real data applications, we demonstrate the feasibility of our fitting strategies and achieve convincing results. Using clinically affordable diffusion acquisition paradigms (encoding numbers: 21, 2*15, 2*21) and b values (b=500-1500 s/mm(2)), this methodology can place the TTM parameters involved in crossing fibers on a more empirical basis than fitting procedures with technical assumptions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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