A tract-specific framework for white matter morphometry combining macroscopic and microscopic tract features

Med Image Anal. 2010 Oct;14(5):666-73. doi: 10.1016/j.media.2010.05.002. Epub 2010 May 26.


Diffusion tensor imaging plays a key role in our understanding of white matter both in normal populations and in populations with brain disorders. Existing techniques focus primarily on using diffusivity-based quantities derived from diffusion tensor as surrogate measures of microstructural tissue properties of white matter. In this paper, we describe a novel tract-specific framework that enables the examination of white matter morphometry at both the macroscopic and microscopic scales. The framework leverages the skeleton-based modeling of sheet-like white matter fasciculi using the continuous medial representation, which gives a natural definition of thickness and supports its comparison across subjects. The thickness measure provides a macroscopic characterization of white matter fasciculi that complements existing analysis of microstructural features. The utility of the framework is demonstrated in quantifying white matter atrophy in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a severe neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons. We show that, compared to using microscopic features alone, combining the macroscopic and microscopic features gives a more complete characterization of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity