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Diffusion MRI fiber tractography is widely used to probe the structural connectivity of the brain, with a range of applications in both clinical and basic neuroscience. Despite widespread use, tractography has well-known pitfalls that limits the anatomical accuracy of this technique. Numerous modern methods have been developed to address these shortcomings through advances in acquisition, modeling, and computation. To test whether these advances improve tractography accuracy, we organized the 3-D Validation of Tractography with Experimental MRI (3D-VoTEM) challenge at the ISBI 2018 conference. We made available three unique independent tractography validation datasets - a physical phantom and two ex vivo brain specimens - resulting in 176 distinct submissions from 9 research groups. By comparing results over a wide range of fiber complexities and algorithmic strategies, this challenge provides a more comprehensive assessment of tractography's inherent limitations than has been reported previously. The central results were consistent across all sub-challenges in that, despite advances in tractography methods, the anatomical accuracy of tractography has not dramatically improved in recent years. Taken together, our results independently confirm findings from decades of tractography validation studies, demonstrate inherent limitations in reconstructing white matter pathways using diffusion MRI data alone, and highlight the need for alternative or combinatorial strategies to accurately map the fiber pathways of the brain.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
For two decades diffusion fiber tractography has been used to probe both the spatial extent of white matter pathways and the region to region connectivity of the brain. In both cases, anatomical accuracy of tractography is critical for sound scientific conclusions. Here we assess and validate the algorithms and tractography implementations that have been most widely used - often because of ease of use, algorithm simplicity, or availability offered in open source software. Comparing forty tractography results to a ground truth defined by histological tracers in the primary motor cortex on the same squirrel monkey brains, we assess tract fidelity on the scale of voxels as well as over larger spatial domains or regional connectivity. No algorithms are successful in all metrics, and, in fact, some implementations fail to reconstruct large portions of pathways or identify major points of connectivity. The accuracy is most dependent on reconstruction method and tracking algorithm, as well as the seed region and how this region is utilized. We also note a tremendous variability in the results, even though the same MR images act as inputs to all algorithms. In addition, anatomical accuracy is significantly decreased at increased distances from the seed. An analysis of the spatial errors in tractography reveals that many techniques have trouble properly leaving the gray matter, and many only reveal connectivity to adjacent regions of interest. These results show that the most commonly implemented algorithms have several shortcomings and limitations, and choices in implementations lead to very different results. This study should provide guidance for algorithm choices based on study requirements for sensitivity, specificity, or the need to identify particular connections, and should serve as a heuristic for future developments in tractography.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Numerous studies have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to characterize functional connectivity between cortical regions by analyzing correlations in blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signals in a resting state. However, to date, there have been only a handful of studies reporting resting state BOLD signals in white matter. Nonetheless, a growing number of reports has emerged in recent years suggesting white matter BOLD signals can be reliably detected, though their biophysical origins remain unclear. Moreover, recent studies have identified robust correlations in a resting state between signals from cortex and specific white matter tracts. In order to further validate and interpret these findings, we studied a non-human primate model to investigate resting-state connectivity patterns between parcellated cortical volumes and specific white matter bundles. Our results show that resting-state connectivity patterns between white and gray matter structures are not randomly distributed but share notable similarities with diffusion- and histology-derived anatomic connectivities. This suggests that resting-state BOLD correlations between white matter fiber tracts and the gray matter regions to which they connect are directly related to the anatomic arrangement and density of WM fibers. We also measured how different levels of baseline neural activity, induced by varying levels of anesthesia, modulate these patterns. As anesthesia levels were raised, we observed weakened correlation coefficients between specific white matter tracts and gray matter regions while key features of the connectivity pattern remained similar. Overall, results from this study provide further evidence that neural activity is detectable by BOLD fMRI in both gray and white matter throughout the resting brain. The combined use of gray and white matter functional connectivity could also offer refined full-scale functional parcellation of the entire brain to characterize its functional architecture.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Speech sounds are encoded by distributed patterns of activity in bilateral superior temporal cortex. However, it is unclear whether speech sounds are topographically represented in cortex, or which acoustic or phonetic dimensions might be spatially mapped. Here, using functional MRI, we investigated the potential spatial representation of vowels, which are largely distinguished from one another by the frequencies of their first and second formants, i.e. peaks in their frequency spectra. This allowed us to generate clear hypotheses about the representation of specific vowels in tonotopic regions of auditory cortex. We scanned participants as they listened to multiple natural tokens of the vowels [ɑ] and [i], which we selected because their first and second formants overlap minimally. Formant-based regions of interest were defined for each vowel based on spectral analysis of the vowel stimuli and independently acquired tonotopic maps for each participant. We found that perception of [ɑ] and [i] yielded differential activation of tonotopic regions corresponding to formants of [ɑ] and [i], such that each vowel was associated with increased signal in tonotopic regions corresponding to its own formants. This pattern was observed in Heschl's gyrus and the superior temporal gyrus, in both hemispheres, and for both the first and second formants. Using linear discriminant analysis of mean signal change in formant-based regions of interest, the identity of untrained vowels was predicted with ∼73% accuracy. Our findings show that cortical encoding of vowels is scaffolded on tonotopy, a fundamental organizing principle of auditory cortex that is not language-specific.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Reward valuation, which underlies all value-based decision-making, has been associated with dopamine function in many studies of nonhuman animals, but there is relatively less direct evidence for an association in humans. Here, we measured dopamine D receptor (DRD2) availability in vivo in humans to examine relations between individual differences in dopamine receptor availability and neural activity associated with a measure of reward valuation, expected value (i.e., the product of reward magnitude and the probability of obtaining the reward). Fourteen healthy adult subjects underwent PET with [F]fallypride, a radiotracer with strong affinity for DRD2, and fMRI (on a separate day) while performing a reward valuation task. [F]fallypride binding potential, reflecting DRD2 availability, in the midbrain correlated positively with neural activity associated with expected value, specifically in the left ventral striatum/caudate. The present results provide in vivo evidence from humans showing midbrain dopamine characteristics are associated with reward valuation.
Research on neuroplasticity in recovery from aphasia depends on the ability to identify language areas of the brain in individuals with aphasia. However, tasks commonly used to engage language processing in people with aphasia, such as narrative comprehension and picture naming, are limited in terms of reliability (test-retest reproducibility) and validity (identification of language regions, and not other regions). On the other hand, paradigms such as semantic decision that are effective in identifying language regions in people without aphasia can be prohibitively challenging for people with aphasia. This paper describes a new semantic matching paradigm that uses an adaptive staircase procedure to present individuals with stimuli that are challenging yet within their competence, so that language processing can be fully engaged in people with and without language impairments. The feasibility, reliability and validity of the adaptive semantic matching paradigm were investigated in sixteen individuals with chronic post-stroke aphasia and fourteen neurologically normal participants, in comparison to narrative comprehension and picture naming paradigms. All participants succeeded in learning and performing the semantic paradigm. Test-retest reproducibility of the semantic paradigm in people with aphasia was good (Dice coefficient = 0.66), and was superior to the other two paradigms. The semantic paradigm revealed known features of typical language organization (lateralization; frontal and temporal regions) more consistently in neurologically normal individuals than the other two paradigms, constituting evidence for validity. In sum, the adaptive semantic matching paradigm is a feasible, reliable and valid method for mapping language regions in people with aphasia.
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
BACKGROUND - Functional dysconnectivity has been proposed as a major pathophysiological mechanism for cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. The hippocampus is a focal point of dysconnectivity in schizophrenia, with decreased hippocampal functional connectivity contributing to the marked memory deficits observed in patients. Normal memory function relies on the interaction of complex corticohippocampal networks. However, only recent technological advances have enabled the large-scale exploration of functional networks with accuracy and precision.
METHODS - We investigated the modularity of hippocampal resting-state functional networks in a sample of 45 patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and 38 healthy control subjects. Modularity was calculated for two distinct functional networks: a core hippocampal-medial temporal lobe cortex network and an extended hippocampal-cortical network. As hippocampal function differs along its longitudinal axis, follow-up analyses examined anterior and posterior networks separately. To explore effects of resting network function on behavior, we tested associations between modularity and relational memory ability. Age, sex, handedness, and parental education were similar between groups.
RESULTS - Network modularity was lower in schizophrenia patients, especially in the posterior hippocampal network. Schizophrenia patients also showed markedly lower relational memory ability compared with control subjects. We found a distinct brain-behavior relationship in schizophrenia that differed from control subjects by network and anterior/posterior division-while relational memory in control subjects was associated with anterior hippocampal-cortical modularity, schizophrenia patients showed an association with posterior hippocampal-medial temporal lobe cortex network modularity.
CONCLUSIONS - Our findings support a model of abnormal resting-state corticohippocampal network coherence in schizophrenia, which may contribute to relational memory deficits.
Copyright © 2018 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Visual object expertise correlates with neural selectivity in the fusiform face area (FFA). Although behavioral studies suggest that visual expertise is associated with increased use of holistic and configural information, little is known about the nature of the supporting neural representations. Using high-resolution 7-T functional magnetic resonance imaging, we recorded the multivoxel activation patterns elicited by whole cars, configurally disrupted cars, and car parts in individuals with a wide range of car expertise. A probabilistic support vector machine classifier was trained to differentiate activation patterns elicited by whole car images from activation patterns elicited by misconfigured car images. The classifier was then used to classify new combined activation patterns that were created by averaging activation patterns elicited by individually presented top and bottom car parts. In line with the idea that the configuration of parts is critical to expert visual perception, car expertise was negatively associated with the probability of a combined activation pattern being classified as a whole car in the right anterior FFA, a region critical to vision for categories of expertise. Thus, just as found for faces in normal observers, the neural representation of cars in right anterior FFA is more holistic for car experts than car novices, consistent with common mechanisms of neural selectivity for faces and other objects of expertise in this area.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by widespread degeneration of monoaminergic (especially dopaminergic) networks, manifesting with a number of both motor and non-motor symptoms. Regional alterations to dopamine D receptors in PD patients are documented in striatal and some extrastriatal areas, and medications that target D receptors can improve motor and non-motor symptoms. However, data regarding the combined pattern of D receptor binding in both striatal and extrastriatal regions in PD are limited. We studied 35 PD patients off-medication and 31 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) using PET imaging with [F]fallypride, a high affinity D receptor ligand, to measure striatal and extrastriatal D nondisplaceable binding potential (BP). PD patients completed PET imaging in the off medication state, and motor severity was concurrently assessed. Voxel-wise evaluation between groups revealed significant BP reductions in PD patients in striatal and several extrastriatal regions, including the locus coeruleus and mesotemporal cortex. A region-of-interest (ROI) based approach quantified differences in dopamine D receptors, where reduced BP was noted in the globus pallidus, caudate, amygdala, hippocampus, ventral midbrain, and thalamus of PD patients relative to HC subjects. Motor severity positively correlated with D receptor density in the putamen and globus pallidus. These findings support the hypothesis that abnormal D expression occurs in regions related to both the motor and non-motor symptoms of PD, including areas richly invested with noradrenergic neurons.
A primary challenge facing the development of interventions for dyslexia is identifying effective predictors of intervention response. While behavioral literature has identified core cognitive characteristics of response, the distinction of reading versus executive cognitive contributions to response profiles remains unclear, due in part to the difficulty of segregating these constructs using behavioral outputs. In the current study we used functional neuroimaging to piece apart the mechanisms of how/whether executive and reading network relationships are predictive of intervention response. We found that readers who are responsive to intervention have more typical pre-intervention functional interactions between executive and reading systems compared to nonresponsive readers. These findings suggest that intervention response in dyslexia is influenced not only by domain-specific reading regions, but also by contributions from intervening domain-general networks. Our results make a significant gain in identifying predictive bio-markers of outcomes in dyslexia, and have important implications for the development of personalized clinical interventions.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.