Tensor-based morphometry using scalar and directional information of diffusion tensor MRI data (DTBM): Application to hereditary spastic paraplegia

Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Dec;39(12):4643-4651. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24278. Epub 2018 Sep 25.


Tensor-based morphometry (TBM) performed using T1-weighted images (T1WIs) is a well-established method for analyzing local morphological changes occurring in the brain due to normal aging and disease. However, in white matter regions that appear homogeneous on T1WIs, T1W-TBM may be inadequate for detecting changes that affect specific pathways. In these regions, diffusion tensor MRI (DTI) can identify white matter pathways on the basis of their different anisotropy and orientation. In this study, we propose performing TBM using deformation fields constructed using all scalar and directional information provided by the diffusion tensor (DTBM) with the goal of increasing sensitivity in detecting morphological abnormalities of specific white matter pathways. Previously, mostly fractional anisotropy (FA) has been used to drive registration in diffusion MRI-based TBM (FA-TBM). However, FA does not have the directional information that the tensors contain, therefore, the registration based on tensors provides better alignment of brain structures and better localization of volume change. We compare our DTBM method to both T1W-TBM and FA-TBM in investigating differences in brain morphology between patients with complicated hereditary spastic paraplegia of type 11 (SPG11) and a group of healthy controls. Effect size maps of T1W-TBM of SPG11 patients showed diffuse atrophy of white matter. However, DTBM indicated that atrophy was more localized, predominantly affecting several long-range pathways. The results of our study suggest that DTBM could be a powerful tool for detecting morphological changes of specific white matter pathways in normal brain development and aging, as well as in degenerative disorders.

Keywords: DTBM; deformation-based morphometry; diffusion; diffusion tensor MRI; diffusion tensor imaging; hereditary spastic paraplegia; spastic paraplegia of type 11; tensor-based morphometry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary / diagnostic imaging
  • Spastic Paraplegia, Hereditary / pathology*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Spastic paraplegia 11, autosomal recessive