Peeking into the Black Box of Coregistration in Clinical fMRI: Which Registration Methods Are Used and How Well Do They Perform?


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Interpretation of fMRI depends on accurate functional-to-structural alignment. This study explores registration methods used by FDA-approved software for clinical fMRI and aims to answer the following question: What is the degree of misalignment when registration is not performed, and how well do current registration methods perform?

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This retrospective study of presurgical fMRI for brain tumors compares nonregistered images and 5 registration cost functions: Hellinger, mutual information, normalized mutual information, correlation ratio, and local Pearson correlation. To adjudicate the accuracy of coregistration, we edge-enhanced echo-planar maps and rated them for alignment with structural anatomy. Lesion-to-activation distances were measured to evaluate the effects of different cost functions.

RESULTS: Transformation parameters were congruent among Hellinger, mutual information, normalized mutual information, and the correlation ratio but divergent from the local Pearson correlation. Edge-enhanced images validated the local Pearson correlation as the most accurate. Hellinger worsened misalignment in 59% of cases, primarily exaggerating the inferior translation; no cases were worsened by the local Pearson correlation. Three hundred twenty lesion-to-activation distances from 25 patients were analyzed among nonregistered images, Hellinger, and the local Pearson correlation. ANOVA analysis revealed significant differences in the coronal (P < .001) and sagittal (P = .04) planes. If registration is not performed, 8% of cases may have a > 3-mm discrepancy and up to a 5.6-mm lesion-to-activation distance difference. If a poor registration method is used, 23% of cases may have a > 3-mm discrepancy and up to a 6.9-mm difference.

CONCLUSIONS: The local Pearson correlation is a special-purpose cost function specifically designed for T2*-T1 coregistration and should be more widely incorporated into software tools as a better method for coregistration in clinical fMRI.

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Published in American Journal of Neuroradiology, v. 39, issue 12.

Copyright © 2018 by American Journal of Neuroradiology

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