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Journal Article

Tractography in the presence of multiple sclerosis lesions


Lipp,  Ilona
Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom;
Brain Research Imaging Centre, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, United Kingdom;
Department Neurophysics (Weiskopf), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Lipp, I., Parker, G. D., Tallantyre, E. C., Goodall, A., Steluta, G., Patitucci, E., et al. (2020). Tractography in the presence of multiple sclerosis lesions. NeuroImage, 209: 116471. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116471.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-7988-A
Accurate anatomical localisation of specific white matter tracts and the quantification of their tract-specific microstructural damage in conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) can contribute to a better understanding of symptomatology, disease evolution and intervention effects. Diffusion MRI-based tractography is being used increasingly to segment white matter tracts as regions-of-interest for subsequent quantitative analysis. Since MS lesions can interrupt the tractography algorithm’s tract reconstruction, clinical studies frequently resort to atlas-based approaches, which are convenient but ignorant to individual variability in tract size and shape. Here, we revisit the problem of individual tractography in MS, comparing tractography algorithms using: (i) The diffusion tensor framework; (ii) constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD); and (iii) damped Richardson-Lucy (dRL) deconvolution. Firstly, using simulated and in vivo data from 29 MS patients and 19 healthy controls, we show that the three tracking algorithms respond differentially to MS pathology. While the tensor-based approach is unable to deal with crossing fibres, CSD produces spurious streamlines, in particular in tissue with high fibre loss and low diffusion anisotropy. With dRL, streamlines are increasingly interrupted in pathological tissue. Secondly, we demonstrate that despite the effects of lesions on the fibre orientation reconstruction algorithms, fibre tracking algorithms are still able to segment tracts that pass through areas with a high prevalence of lesions. Combining dRL-based tractography with an automated tract segmentation tool on data from 131 MS patients, the cortico-spinal tracts and arcuate fasciculi could be reconstructed in more than 90% of individuals. Comparing tract-specific microstructural parameters (fractional anisotropy, radial diffusivity and magnetisation transfer ratio) in individually segmented tracts to those from a tract probability map, we show that there is no systematic disease-related bias in the individually reconstructed tracts, suggesting that lesions and otherwise damaged parts are not systematically omitted during tractography. Thirdly, we demonstrate modest anatomical correspondence between the individual and tract probability-based approach, with a spatial overlap between 35 and 55%. Correlations between tract-averaged microstructural parameters in individually segmented tracts and the probability-map approach ranged between () for radial diffusivity in the right cortico-spinal tract and () for magnetisation transfer ratio in the arcuate fasciculi. Our results show that MS white matter lesions impact fibre orientation reconstructions but this does not appear to hinder the ability to anatomically reconstruct white matter tracts in MS. Individual tract segmentation in MS is feasible on a large scale and could prove a powerful tool for investigating diagnostic and prognostic markers.