Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jun Zhang


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging technique to visualize internal structures of the body. Diffusion MRI is an MRI modality that measures overall diffusion effect of molecules in vivo and non-invasively. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is an extended technique of diffusion MRI. The major application of DTI is to measure the location, orientation and anisotropy of fiber tracts in white matter. It enables non-invasive investigation of major neural pathways of human brain, namely tractography. As spatial resolution of MRI is limited, it is possible that there are multiple fiber bundles within the same voxel. However, diffusion tensor model is only capable of resolving a single direction. The goal of this dissertation is to investigate complex anatomical structures using high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) data without any assumption on the parameters.

The dissertation starts with a study of the noise distribution of truncated MRI data. The noise is often not an issue in diffusion tensor model. However, in HARDI studies, with many more gradient directions being scanned, the number of repetitions of each gradient direction is often small to restrict total acquisition time, making signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) lower. Fitting complex diffusion models to data with reduced SNR is a major interest of this study. We focus on fitting diffusion models to data using maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) method, in which the noise distribution is used to maximize the likelihood. In addition to the parameters being estimated, we use likelihood values for model selection when multiple models are fit to the same data. The advantage of carrying out model selection after fitting the models is that both the quality of data and the quality of fitting results are taken into account. When it comes to tractography, we extend streamline method by using covariance of the estimated parameters to generate probabilistic tracts according to the uncertainty of local tract orientations.