Fast estimation of diffusion tensors under Rician noise by the EM algorithm

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Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is widely used to characterize, in vivo, the white matter of the central nerve system (CNS). This biological tissue contains much anatomic, structural and orientational information of fibers in human brain. Spectral data from the displacement distribution of water molecules located in the brain tissue are collected by a magnetic resonance scanner and acquired in the Fourier domain. After the Fourier inversion, the noise distribution is Gaussian in both real and imaginary parts and, as a consequence, the recorded magnitude data are corrupted by Rician noise.Statistical estimation of diffusion leads a non-linear regression problem. In this paper, we present a fast computational method for maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) of diffusivities under the Rician noise model based on the expectation maximization (EM) algorithm. By using data augmentation, we are able to transform a non-linear regression problem into the generalized linear modeling framework, reducing dramatically the computational cost. The Fisher-scoring method is used for achieving fast convergence of the tensor parameter. The new method is implemented and applied using both synthetic and real data in a wide range of b-amplitudes up to 14,000s/mm2. Higher accuracy and precision of the Rician estimates are achieved compared with other log-normal based methods. In addition, we extend the maximum likelihood (ML) framework to the maximum a posteriori (MAP) estimation in DTI under the aforementioned scheme by specifying the priors. We will describe how close numerically are the estimators of model parameters obtained through MLE and MAP estimation.




Liu, J., Gasbarra, D., & Railavo, J. (2016). Fast estimation of diffusion tensors under Rician noise by the EM algorithm. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 257, 147–158.

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