This article presents two related advancements to the diffusional kurtosis imaging estimation framework to increase its robustness to noise, motion, and imaging artifacts. The first advancement substantially improves the estimation of diffusion and kurtosis tensors parameterizing the diffusional kurtosis imaging model. Rather than utilizing conventional unconstrained least squares methods, the tensor estimation problem is formulated as linearly constrained linear least squares, where the constraints ensure physically and/or biologically plausible tensor estimates. The exact solution to the constrained problem is found via convex quadratic programming methods or, alternatively, an approximate solution is determined through a fast heuristic algorithm. The computationally more demanding quadratic programming-based method is more flexible, allowing for an arbitrary number of diffusion weightings and different gradient sets for each diffusion weighting. The heuristic algorithm is suitable for real-time settings such as on clinical scanners, where run time is crucial. The advantage offered by the proposed constrained algorithms is demonstrated using in vivo human brain images. The proposed constrained methods allow for shorter scan times and/or higher spatial resolution for a given fidelity of the diffusional kurtosis imaging parametric maps. The second advancement increases the efficiency and accuracy of the estimation of mean and radial kurtoses by applying exact closed-form formulae.
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