Cluster analysis in kinetic modelling of the brain: a noninvasive alternative to arterial sampling

Neuroimage. 2004 Feb;21(2):483-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.09.058.


In emission tomography, quantification of brain tracer uptake, metabolism or binding requires knowledge of the cerebral input function. Traditionally, this is achieved with arterial blood sampling. We propose a noninvasive alternative via the use of a blood vessel time-activity curve (TAC) extracted directly from dynamic positron emission tomography (PET) scans by cluster analysis. Five healthy subjects were injected with the 5HT(2A)-receptor ligand [(18)F]-altanserin and blood samples were subsequently taken from the radial artery and cubital vein. Eight regions-of-interest (ROI) TACs were extracted from the PET data set. Hierarchical K-means cluster analysis was performed on the PET time series to extract a cerebral vasculature ROI. The number of clusters was varied from K = 1 to 10 for the second of the two-stage method. Determination of the correct number of clusters was performed by the 'within-variance' measure and by 3D visual inspection of the homogeneity of the determined clusters. The cluster-determined input curve was then used in Logan plot analysis and compared with the arterial and venous blood samples, and additionally with one of the currently used alternatives to arterial blood sampling, the Simplified Reference Tissue Model (SRTM) and Logan analysis with cerebellar TAC as an input. There was a good agreement (P < 0.05) between the values of Distribution Volume (DV) obtained from the K-means-clustered input function and those from the arterial blood samples. This work acts as a proof-of-principle that the use of cluster analysis on a PET data set could obviate the requirement for arterial cannulation when determining the input function for kinetic modelling of ligand binding, and that this may be a superior approach as compared to the other noninvasive alternatives.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Blood Specimen Collection
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ketanserin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ketanserin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Mathematical Computing*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Reference Values
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / statistics & numerical data*


  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • altanserin
  • Ketanserin