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Journal Article

Reducing susceptibility distortion related image blurring in diffusion MRI EPI data


Weiskopf,  Nikolaus
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, United Kingdom;
Department Neurophysics (Weiskopf), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Felix Bloch Institute for Solid State Physics, University of Leipzig, Germany;


Mohammadi,  Siawoosh
Department Neurophysics (Weiskopf), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Systems Neuroscience, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany;

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Clark, I. A., Callaghan, M. F., Weiskopf, N., Maguire, E. A., & Mohammadi, S. (2021). Reducing susceptibility distortion related image blurring in diffusion MRI EPI data. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15: 706473. doi:10.3389/fnins.2021.706473.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-1CDC-1
Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an increasingly popular technique in basic and clinical neuroscience. One promising application is to combine diffusion MRI with myelin maps from complementary MRI techniques such as multi-parameter mapping (MPM) to produce g-ratio maps that represent the relative myelination of axons and predict their conduction velocity. Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) can process both diffusion data and MPMs, making SPM the only widely accessible software that contains all the processing steps required to perform group analyses of g-ratio data in a common space. However, limitations have been identified in its method for reducing susceptibility-related distortion in diffusion data. More generally, susceptibility-related image distortion is often corrected by combining reverse phase-encoded images (blip-up and blip-down) using the arithmetic mean (AM), however, this can lead to blurred images. In this study we sought to (1) improve the susceptibility-related distortion correction for diffusion MRI data in SPM; (2) deploy an alternative approach to the AM to reduce image blurring in diffusion MRI data when combining blip-up and blip-down EPI data after susceptibility-related distortion correction; and (3) assess the benefits of these changes for g-ratio mapping. We found that the new processing pipeline, called consecutive Hyperelastic Susceptibility Artefact Correction (HySCO) improved distortion correction when compared to the standard approach in the ACID toolbox for SPM. Moreover, using a weighted average (WA) method to combine the distortion corrected data from each phase-encoding polarity achieved greater overlap of diffusion and more anatomically faithful structural white matter probability maps derived from minimally distorted multi-parameter maps as compared to the AM. Third, we showed that the consecutive HySCO WA performed better than the AM method when combined with multi-parameter maps to perform g-ratio mapping. These improvements mean that researchers can conveniently access a wide range of diffusion-related analysis methods within one framework because they are now available within the open-source ACID toolbox as part of SPM, which can be easily combined with other SPM toolboxes, such as the hMRI toolbox, to facilitate computation of myelin biomarkers that are necessary for g-ratio mapping.