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The human cerebral cortex is a laminar structure about 3 mm thick, and is easily visualized with current magnetic resonance (MR) technology. The thickness of the cortex varies locally by region, and is likely to be influenced by such factors as development, disease and aging. Thus, accurate measurements of local cortical thickness are likely to be of interest to other researchers. We develop a parametric stochastic model relating the laminar structure of local regions of the cerebral cortex to MR image data. Parameters of the model include local thickness, and statistics describing white, gray and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) image intensity values as a function of the normal distance from the center of a voxel to a local coordinate system anchored at the gray/white matter interface. Our fundamental data object, the intensity-distance histogram (IDH), is a two-dimensional (2-D) generalization of the conventional 1-D image intensity histogram, which indexes voxels not only by their intensity value, but also by their normal distance to the gray/white interface. We model the IDH empirically as a marked Poisson process with marking process a Gaussian random field model of image intensity indexed against normal distance. In this paper, we relate the parameters of the IDH model to the local geometry of the cortex. A maximum-likelihood framework estimates the parameters of the model from the data. Here, we show estimates of these parameters for 10 volumes in the posterior cingulate, and 6 volumes in the anterior and posterior banks of the central sulcus. The accuracy of the estimates is quantified via Cramer-Rao bounds. We believe that this relatively crude model can be extended in a straightforward fashion to other biologically and theoretically interesting problems such as segmentation, surface area estimation, and estimating the thickness distribution in a variety of biologically relevant contexts.
Date of Publication: June 2005