Atlas-guided cluster analysis of large tractography datasets

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Abstract

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and fiber tractography are important tools to map the cerebral white matter microstructure in vivo and to model the underlying axonal pathways in the brain with three-dimensional fiber tracts. As the fast and consistent extraction of anatomically correct fiber bundles for multiple datasets is still challenging, we present a novel atlas-guided clustering framework for exploratory data analysis of large tractography datasets. The framework uses an hierarchical cluster analysis approach that exploits the inherent redundancy in large datasets to time-efficiently group fiber tracts. Structural information of a white matter atlas can be incorporated into the clustering to achieve an anatomically correct and reproducible grouping of fiber tracts. This approach facilitates not only the identification of the bundles corresponding to the classes of the atlas; it also enables the extraction of bundles that are not present in the atlas. The new technique was applied to cluster datasets of 46 healthy subjects. Prospects of automatic and anatomically correct as well as reproducible clustering are explored. Reconstructed clusters were well separated and showed good correspondence to anatomical bundles. Using the atlas-guided cluster approach, we observed consistent results across subjects with high reproducibility. In order to investigate the outlier elimination performance of the clustering algorithm, scenarios with varying amounts of noise were simulated and clustered with three different outlier elimination strategies. By exploiting the multithreading capabilities of modern multiprocessor systems in combination with novel algorithms, our toolkit clusters large datasets in a couple of minutes. Experiments were conducted to investigate the achievable speedup and to demonstrate the high performance of the clustering framework in a multiprocessing environment.

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Ros, C., Güllmar, D., Stenzel, M., Mentzel, H. J., & Reichenbach, J. R. (2013). Atlas-guided cluster analysis of large tractography datasets. PLoS ONE, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083847

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