Development of a diffusion tensor (DT) template that is representative of the micro-architecture of the human brain is crucial for comparisons of neuronal structural integrity and brain connectivity across populations, as well as for the generation of a detailed white matter atlas. Furthermore, a DT template in ICBM space may simplify consolidation of information from DT, anatomical and functional MRI studies. The previously developed "IIT DT brain template" was produced in ICBM-152 space, based on a large number of subjects from a limited age-range, using data with minimal image artifacts, and non-linear registration. That template was characterized by higher image sharpness, provided the ability to distinguish smaller white matter fiber structures, and contained fewer image artifacts, than several previously published DT templates. However, low-dimensional registration was used in the development of that template, which led to a mismatch of DT information across subjects, eventually manifested as loss of local diffusion information and errors in the final tensors. Also, low-dimensional registration led to a mismatch of the anatomy in the IIT and ICBM-152 templates. In this work, a significantly improved DT brain template in ICBM-152 space was developed, using high-dimensional non-linear registration and the raw data collected for the purposes of the IIT template. The accuracy of inter-subject DT matching was significantly increased compared to that achieved for the development of the IIT template. Consequently, the new template contained DT information that was more representative of single-subject human brain data, and was characterized by higher image sharpness than the IIT template. Furthermore, a bootstrap approach demonstrated that the variance of tensor characteristics was lower in the new template. Additionally, compared to the IIT template, brain anatomy in the new template more accurately matched ICBM-152 space. Finally, spatial normalization of a number of DT datasets through registration to the new and existing IIT templates was improved when using the new template. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
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