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Towards an optimised processing pipeline for diffusion MRI data: Effects of artefact corrections on diffusion metrics and their age associations in UK Biobank

By Ivan Maximov, Dag Alnaes, Lars T. Westlye

Posted 04 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/511964 (published DOI: 10.1002/hbm.24691)

Increasing interest in the structural and functional organization of the human brain in health and disease encourages the acquisition of big datasets consisting of multiple neuroimaging modalities accompanied by additional information obtained from health records, cognitive tests, biomarkers and genotypes. Diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging data enables a range of promising imaging phenotypes probing structural connections as well as macroanatomical and microstructural properties of the brain. The reliability and biological sensitivity and specificity of diffusion data depend on processing pipeline. A state-of-the-art framework for data processing facilitates cross-study harmonisation and reduces pipeline-related variability. Using diffusion data from the UK Biobank we provide a comprehensive evaluation of different processing steps that have been suggested to reduce imaging artefacts and improve reliability of diffusion metrics. We consider a general pipeline comprising 7 post-processing blocks: noise correction; Gibbs ringing correction; evaluation of field distortions; susceptibility, eddy-current and motion-induced distortion corrections; bias field correction; spatial smoothing; and final diffusion metric estimations. Based on this evaluation, we suggest an optimised diffusion pipeline for processing of diffusion weighted imaging data.

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