Measurement of cortical thickness using an automated 3-D algorithm: a validation study

Neuroimage. 2001 Feb;13(2):375-80. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2000.0652.


A validation study was conducted to assess the accuracy of the algorithm developed by MacDonald et al. (1999) for measuring cortical thickness. This algorithm automatically determines the cortical thickness by 3-D extraction of the inner and outer surfaces of the cerebral cortex from an MRI scan. A manual method of tagging the grey-csf and grey-white interface was used on 20 regions (10 cortical areas found in each hemisphere) in 40 MRIs of the brain to validate the algorithm. The regions were chosen throughout the cortex to get broad assessment of the algorithm's performance. Accuracy was determined by an anatomist tagging the csf-grey and grey-white borders of selected gyri and by allowing the algorithm to determine the csf-grey and grey-white borders and the corresponding cortical thickness of the same region. Results from the manual and automatic methods were statistically compared using overall ANOVA and paired t tests for each region. The manual and automatic methods were in agreement for all but 4 of the 20 regions tested. The four regions where there were significant differences between the two methods were the insula left and right, the right cuneus, and the right parahippocampus. We conclude that the automatic algorithm is valid for most of the cortex and provides a viable alternative to manual methods of determining cortical thickness in vivo. However, caution should be taken when measuring the regions mentioned previously where the results of the algorithm can be biased by surrounding grey structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Automation
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*