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Neuroimage. 2018 Feb 15;167:256-275. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.11.006. Epub 2017 Nov 5.

Discovery and visualization of structural biomarkers from MRI using transport-based morphometry.

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Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Pittsburgh, 526 Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA. Electronic address:
ISSL Group, HRL Laboratories, Malibu, CA 90265, USA. Electronic address:
Brain Aging & Cognitive Health Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 3601 Sennot Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA. Electronic address:
Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, 405 North Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. Electronic address:
Exercise Psychology Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, Louise Freer Hall, 906 S Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. Electronic address:
Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Box 800759, Room 1115, 415 Lane Road (MR5 Building), University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Electronic address:


Disease in the brain is often associated with subtle, spatially diffuse, or complex tissue changes that may lie beneath the level of gross visual inspection, even on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Unfortunately, current computer-assisted approaches that examine pre-specified features, whether anatomically-defined (i.e. thalamic volume, cortical thickness) or based on pixelwise comparison (i.e. deformation-based methods), are prone to missing a vast array of physical changes that are not well-encapsulated by these metrics. In this paper, we have developed a technique for automated pattern analysis that can fully determine the relationship between brain structure and observable phenotype without requiring any a priori features. Our technique, called transport-based morphometry (TBM), is an image transformation that maps brain images losslessly to a domain where they become much more separable. The new approach is validated on structural brain images of healthy older adult subjects where even linear models for discrimination, regression, and blind source separation enable TBM to independently discover the characteristic changes of aging and highlight potential mechanisms by which aerobic fitness may mediate brain health later in life. TBM is a generative approach that can provide visualization of physically meaningful shifts in tissue distribution through inverse transformation. The proposed framework is a powerful technique that can potentially elucidate genotype-structural-behavioral associations in myriad diseases.


Aging; Computer-aided detection; Magnetic resonance imaging; Transport-based morphometry

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