Evaluating arcuate fasciculus laterality measurements across dataset and tractography pipelines

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Sep;40(13):3695-3711. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24626. Epub 2019 May 20.


The arcuate fasciculi are white-matter pathways that connect frontal and temporal lobes in each hemisphere. The arcuate plays a key role in the language network and is believed to be left-lateralized, in line with left hemisphere dominance for language. Measuring the arcuate in vivo requires diffusion magnetic resonance imaging-based tractography, but asymmetry of the in vivo arcuate is not always reliably detected in previous studies. It is unknown how the choice of tractography algorithm, with each method's freedoms, constraints, and vulnerabilities to false-positive and -negative errors, impacts findings of arcuate asymmetry. Here, we identify the arcuate in two independent datasets using a number of tractography strategies and methodological constraints, and assess their impact on estimates of arcuate laterality. We test three tractography methods: a deterministic, a probabilistic, and a tractography-evaluation (LiFE) algorithm. We extract the arcuate from the whole-brain tractogram, and compare it to an arcuate bundle constrained even further by selecting only those streamlines that connect to anatomically relevant cortical regions. We test arcuate macrostructure laterality, and also evaluate microstructure profiles for properties such as fractional anisotropy and quantitative R1. We find that both tractography choice and implementing the cortical constraints substantially impact estimates of all indices of arcuate laterality. Together, these results emphasize the effect of the tractography pipeline on estimates of arcuate laterality in both macrostructure and microstructure.

Keywords: asymmetry; diffusion MRI; microstructure; quantitative MRI; tractogram.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / standards*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult