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Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:94-7. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6345879.

Impact of DTI smoothing on the study of brain aging.

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IDeA Lab, UC Davis, CA, USA.


Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI), a method for measuring the integrity of axon fiber tracts in the brain, plays an important role in clarifying brain changes that accompany aging and aging-associated neurodegenerative disease. While DTI smoothing methods theoretically have the potential to enhance such studies by reducing noise, it is unclear whether DTI smoothing has any practical impact on computed associations between fiber tract integrity and scientific variables of interest. Therefore we smoothed DTI images from 154 older adults using three kernel smoothing methods hypothesized to have differing strengths (the affine and log-Euclidean smoothers were hypothesized to enhance highly organized tracts better than the Euclidean smoother). Smoothing increased the strengths of expected associations between DTI and age, cognitive function, and the diagnosis of dementia. However, no particular smoothing method was uniformly superior in strengthening these associations. This data suggests that DTI smoothing enhances the sensitivity of studies of brain aging, but further research is needed to determine which smoothing technique is optimal.

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