On the Reconstruction of Magnetic ResonanceCurrent Density Images of the Human Brain:Pitfalls and Perspectives
Magnetic resonance current density imaging (MRCDI) of the human brain aims to reconstruct the current density distribution caused by transcranial electric stimulation from MR-based measurements of the current-induced magnetic fields. The reconstruction problem is challenging due to a low signal-to-noise ratio and a limited volume coverage of the MR-based measurements, the lack of data from the scalp and skull regions and because MRCDI is only sensitive to the component of the current-induced magnetic field parallel to the scanner field. Most existing reconstruction approaches have been validated using simulation studies and measurements in phantoms with simplified geometries. Only one reconstruction method, the projected current density algorithm, has been applied to human in-vivo data so far, however resulting in blurred current density estimates even when applied to noise-free simulated data. We analyze the underlying causes for the limited performance of the projected current density algorithm when applied to human brain data. In addition, we compare it with an approach that relies on the optimization of the conductivities of a small number of tissue compartments of anatomically detailed head models reconstructed from structural MR data. Both for simulated ground truth data and human in-vivo MRCDI data, our results indicate that the estimation of current densities benefits more from using a personalized volume conductor model than from applying the projected current density algorithm. In particular, we introduce a hierarchical statistical testing approach as a principled way to test and compare the quality of reconstructed current density images that accounts for the limited signal-to-noise ratio of the human in-vivo MRCDI data and the fact that the ground truth of the current density is unknown for measured data. Our results indicate that the statistical testing approach constitutes a valuable framework for the further development of accurate volume conductor models of the head. Our findings also highlight the importance of tailoring the reconstruction approaches to the quality and specific properties of the available data.
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