Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures are commonly used as imaging markers to investigate individual differences in relation to behavioral and health-related characteristics. However, the ability to detect reliable associations in cross-sectional or longitudinal studies is limited by the reliability of the diffusion measures. Several studies have examined the reliability of diffusion measures within (i.e. intra-site) and across (i.e. inter-site) scanners with mixed results. Our study compares the test-retest reliability of diffusion measures within and across scanners and field strengths in cognitively normal older adults with a follow-up interval less than 2.25 years. Intra-class correlation (ICC) and coefficient of variation (CoV) of fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were evaluated in sixteen white matter and twenty-six gray matter bilateral regions. The ICC for intra-site reliability (0.32 to 0.96 for FA and 0.18 to 0.95 for MD in white matter regions; 0.27 to 0.89 for MD and 0.03 to 0.79 for FA in gray matter regions) and inter-site reliability (0.28 to 0.95 for FA in white matter regions, 0.02 to 0.86 for MD in gray matter regions) with longer follow-up intervals were similar to earlier studies using shorter follow-up intervals. The reliability of across field strengths comparisons was lower than intra- and inter-site reliabilities. Within and across scanner comparisons showed that diffusion measures were more stable in larger white matter regions (>1500 mm(3)). For gray matter regions, the MD measure showed stability in specific regions and was not dependent on region size. Linear correction factor estimated from cross-sectional or longitudinal data improved the reliability across field strengths. Our findings indicate that investigations relating diffusion measures to external variables must consider variable reliability across the distinct regions of interest and that correction factors can be used to improve consistency of measurement across field strengths. An important result of this work is that inter-scanner and field strength effects can be partially mitigated with linear correction factors specific to regions of interest. These data-driven linear correction techniques can be applied in cross-sectional or longitudinal studies.
Published by Elsevier Inc.