Mapping the Impact of Approximate Gradient Nonlinearity Fields Correction on Tractography
Praitayini Kanakaraj, Francois Rheault, Leon Y. Cai, Nancy Newlin, Baxter P. Rogers, Kurt G. Schilling, Bennett A. Landman. “Mapping the Impact of Approximate Gradient Nonlinearity Fields Correction on Tractography” SPIE Medical Imaging : Image Processing 2023. Accepted.
Nonlinear gradients impact diffusion weighted MRI by introducing spatial variation in estimated diffusion tensors. Recent studies have shown that increasing signal-to-noise ratios and the use of ultra-strong gradients may lead to clinically significant impacts on analyses due to these nonlinear gradients in microstructural measures. These effects can potentially bias tractography results and cause misinterpretation of data. Herein, we characterize the impact of an “approximate” gradient nonlinearity correction technique in tractography using empirically derived gradient nonlinear fields. This technique scales the diffusion signal by the change in magnitude due to the gradient nonlinearities, without concomitant correction of gradient direction errors. The impact of this correction on tractography is assessed through white matter bundle segmentation and connectomics via bundle-wise volume, fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity, axial diffusivity, primary eigenvector, and length; as well as the modularity, global efficiency, and characteristic path length connectomics graph measures. We investigate the differences between (1) these measures directly and (2) the within session variability of these measures before and after approximate correction in 61 subjects from the MASiVar pediatric reproducibility dataset. We find approximate correction results is little to no differences on the population level, but large differences on the subject-specific level for both the measures directly and their within session variability. Thus, this study suggests though approximate correction of gradient nonlinearities may not change tractography findings on the population level, subject-specific interpretations may exhibit large fluctuations. A limitation is the lack of comparison with the empirical voxel-wise gradient table correction.