Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging permits assessment of the structural integrity of the brain's white matter. This requires unbiased and precise quantification of diffusion properties. We aim to estimate such properties in simple and complex fiber geometries up to three-way fiber crossings using rank-2 tensor model selection. A maximum a-posteriori (MAP) estimator is employed to determine the parameters of a constrained triple tensor model. A prior is imposed on the parameters to avoid the degeneracy of the model estimation. This prior maximizes the divergence between the three tensor's principal orientations. A new model selection approach quantifies the extent to which the candidate models are appropriate, i.e. a single-, dual- or triple-tensor model. The model selection precludes overfitting to the data. It is based on the goodness of fit and information complexity measured by the total Kullback-Leibler divergence (ICOMP-TKLD). The proposed framework is compared to maximum likelihood estimation on phantom data of three-way fiber crossings. It is also compared to the ball-and-stick approach from the FMRIB Software Library (FSL) on experimental data. The spread in the estimated parameters reduces significantly due to the prior. The fractional anisotropy (FA) could be precisely estimated with MAP down to an angle of approximately 40° between the three fibers. Furthermore, volume fractions between 0.2 and 0.8 could be reliably estimated. The configurations inferred by our method corresponded to the anticipated neuro-anatomy both in single fibers and in three-way fiber crossings. The main difference with FSL was in single fiber regions. Here, ICOMP-TKLD predominantly inferred a single fiber configuration, as preferred, whereas FSL mostly selected dual or triple order ball-and-stick models. The prior of our MAP estimator enhances the precision of the parameter estimation, without introducing a bias. Additionally, our model selection effectively balances the trade-off between the goodness of fit and information complexity. The proposed framework can enhance the sensitivity of statistical analysis of diffusion tensor MRI.

Diffusion MRI, Maximum a posteriori estimation, Maximum likelihood, Model selection, Multi-tensor models
dx.doi.org/10.1088/0031-9155/60/23/9123, hdl.handle.net/1765/82990
Physics in Medicine and Biology
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Yang, J, Poot, D.H.J, van Vliet, L.J, & Vos, F. (2015). Estimation of diffusion properties in three-way fiber crossings without overfitting. Physics in Medicine and Biology, 60(23), 9123–9144. doi:10.1088/0031-9155/60/23/9123