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Methods for improved mapping of brain lesion connectivity

  • Author(s): Greene, Clint
  • Advisor(s): Rose, Kenneth
  • et al.
Abstract

Recent advances over the past two decades in neuroimaging methods have enabled us to map the connectivity of the brain. In parallel, pathophysiological models of brain disease have shifted from an emphasis on understanding pathology in specific brain regions to characterizing disruptions to interconnected neural networks. Nevertheless, these recent methods for mapping brain connectivity are still under development. Every step of the mapping process becomes a potential source for additional error due to noise or artifacts that could impact final analyses. Segmentation, parcellation, registration, and tractography are some of the steps where this occurs. Moreover, mapping the connectivity in a brain lesion is even more susceptible to errors in these steps.

In this body of work, I describe multiple new methods for improving the accuracy of mapping lesion connectivity by reducing errors at the tractography stage which is the most error prone stage. First, we develop an approach for directly normalizing streamlines into a template space that avoids performing tractography in the normalized template space, reducing the error of connectomes constructed in the template space with respect to the ground truth native space connectome. Second, we develop a rapid approach for performing shortest path tractography and constructing shortest path probability weighted connectomes which increases the connection specificity relative to local streamline tracking approaches. We then demonstrate how our shortest path tractography approach can be used construct a disconnectome, a connectivity map of the proportion of connections lost due to intersecting a lesion. We then develop a fast, greedy graph-theoretic algorithm that extracts the maximally disconnected subgraph containing brain regions with the greatest shared loss of connectivity. Finally, we demonstrate how combining methods from diffusion based image inpainting and optimal estimation can be used to restore or inpaint corrupted fiber diffusion models in lesioned white matter tissue, enabling tractography and the study of lesion connectivity and modeling of microstructural measures in the patient’s native space.

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