PANDA: a pipeline toolbox for analyzing brain diffusion images

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Feb 21;7:42. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00042. eCollection 2013.

Abstract

Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) is widely used in both scientific research and clinical practice in in-vivo studies of the human brain. While a number of post-processing packages have been developed, fully automated processing of dMRI datasets remains challenging. Here, we developed a MATLAB toolbox named "Pipeline for Analyzing braiN Diffusion imAges" (PANDA) for fully automated processing of brain diffusion images. The processing modules of a few established packages, including FMRIB Software Library (FSL), Pipeline System for Octave and Matlab (PSOM), Diffusion Toolkit and MRIcron, were employed in PANDA. Using any number of raw dMRI datasets from different subjects, in either DICOM or NIfTI format, PANDA can automatically perform a series of steps to process DICOM/NIfTI to diffusion metrics [e.g., fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD)] that are ready for statistical analysis at the voxel-level, the atlas-level and the Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS)-level and can finish the construction of anatomical brain networks for all subjects. In particular, PANDA can process different subjects in parallel, using multiple cores either in a single computer or in a distributed computing environment, thus greatly reducing the time cost when dealing with a large number of datasets. In addition, PANDA has a friendly graphical user interface (GUI), allowing the user to be interactive and to adjust the input/output settings, as well as the processing parameters. As an open-source package, PANDA is freely available at http://www.nitrc.org/projects/panda/. This novel toolbox is expected to substantially simplify the image processing of dMRI datasets and facilitate human structural connectome studies.

Keywords: DTI; PANDA; connectome; diffusion MRI; diffusion metrics; network; pipeline; structural connectivity.