Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jun Zhang

Abstract

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to record incoherent motion of water molecules and has been used to detect micro structural white matter alterations in clinical studies to explore certain brain disorders. A variety of DTI based techniques for detecting brain disorders and facilitating clinical group analysis have been developed in the past few years. However, there are two crucial issues that have great impacts on the performance of those algorithms. One is that brain neural pathways appear in complicated 3D structures which are inappropriate and inaccurate to be approximated by simple 2D structures, while the other involves the computational efficiency in classifying white matter tracts.

The first key area that this dissertation focuses on is to implement a novel computing scheme for estimating regional white matter alterations along neural pathways in 3D space. The mechanism of the proposed method relies on white matter tractography and geodesic distance mapping. We propose a mask scheme to overcome the difficulty to reconstruct thin tract bundles. Real DTI data are employed to demonstrate the performance of the pro- posed technique. Experimental results show that the proposed method bears great potential to provide a sensitive approach for determining the white matter integrity in human brain.

Another core objective of this work is to develop a class of new modeling and clustering techniques with improved performance and noise resistance for separating reconstructed white matter tracts to facilitate clinical group analysis. Different strategies are presented to handle different scenarios. For whole brain tractography reconstructed white matter tracts, a Fourier descriptor model and a clustering algorithm based on multivariate Gaussian mixture model and expectation maximization are proposed. Outliers are easily handled in this framework. Real DTI data experimental results show that the proposed algorithm is relatively effective and may offer an alternative for existing white matter fiber clustering methods. For a small amount of white matter fibers, a modeling and clustering algorithm with the capability of handling white matter fibers with unequal length and sharing no common starting region is also proposed and evaluated with real DTI data.

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