NeuroImage (Nov 2020)

Spherical deconvolution with tissue-specific response functions and multi-shell diffusion MRI to estimate multiple fiber orientation distributions (mFODs)

  • Alberto De Luca,
  • Fenghua Guo,
  • Martijn Froeling,
  • Alexander Leemans

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 222
p. 117206


Read online

In diffusion MRI, spherical deconvolution approaches can estimate local white matter (WM) fiber orientation distributions (FOD) which can be used to produce fiber tractography reconstructions. The applicability of spherical deconvolution to gray matter (GM), however, is still limited, despite its critical role as start/endpoint of WM fiber pathways. The advent of multi-shell diffusion MRI data offers additional contrast to model the GM signal but, to date, only isotropic models have been applied to GM. Evidence from both histology and high-resolution diffusion MRI studies suggests a marked anisotropic character of the diffusion process in GM, which could be exploited to improve the description of the cortical organization. In this study, we investigated whether performing spherical deconvolution with tissue specific models of both WM and GM can improve the characterization of the latter while retaining state-of-the-art performances in WM. To this end, we developed a framework able to simultaneously accommodate multiple anisotropic response functions to estimate multiple, tissue-specific, fiber orientation distributions (mFODs). As proof of principle, we used the diffusion kurtosis imaging model to represent the WM signal, and the neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) model to represent the GM signal. The feasibility of the proposed approach is shown with numerical simulations and with data from the Human Connectome Project (HCP). The performance of our method is compared to the current state of the art, multi-shell constrained spherical deconvolution (MSCSD). The simulations show that with our new method we can accurately estimate a mixture of two FODs at SNR≥50. With HCP data, the proposed method was able to reconstruct both tangentially and radially oriented FODs in GM, and performed comparably well to MSCSD in computing FODs in WM. When performing fiber tractography, the trajectories reconstructed with mFODs reached the cortex with more spatial continuity and for a longer distance as compared to MSCSD and allowed to reconstruct short trajectories tangential to the cortical folding. In conclusion, we demonstrated that our proposed method allows to perform spherical deconvolution of multiple anisotropic response functions, specifically improving the performances of spherical deconvolution in GM tissue.