The translational role of diffusion tensor image analysis in animal models of developmental pathologies

Dev Neurosci. 2012;34(1):5-19. doi: 10.1159/000336825. Epub 2012 May 24.


Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) has proven itself a powerful technique for clinical investigation of the neurobiological targets and mechanisms underlying developmental pathologies. The success of DTI in clinical studies has demonstrated its great potential for understanding translational animal models of clinical disorders, and preclinical animal researchers are beginning to embrace this new technology to study developmental pathologies. In animal models, genetics can be effectively controlled, drugs consistently administered, subject compliance ensured, and image acquisition times dramatically increased to reduce between-subject variability and improve image quality. When pairing these strengths with the many positive attributes of DTI, such as the ability to investigate microstructural brain organization and connectivity, it becomes possible to delve deeper into the study of both normal and abnormal development. The purpose of this review is to provide new preclinical investigators with an introductory source of information about the analysis of data resulting from small animal DTI studies to facilitate the translation of these studies to clinical data. In addition to an in-depth review of translational analysis techniques, we present a number of relevant clinical and animal studies using DTI to investigate developmental insults in order to further illustrate techniques and to highlight where small animal DTI could potentially provide a wealth of translational data to inform clinical researchers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley