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High-angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) can reconstruct fiber pathways in the brain with extraordinary detail, identifying anatomical features and connections not seen with conventional MRI. HARDI overcomes several limitations of standard diffusion tensor imaging, which fails to model diffusion correctly in regions where fibers cross or mix. As HARDI can accurately resolve sharp signal peaks in angular space where fibers cross, we studied how many gradients are required in practice to compute accurate orientation density functions, to better understand the trade-off between longer scanning times and more angular precision. We computed orientation density functions analytically from tensor distribution functions (TDFs) which model the HARDI signal at each point as a unit-mass probability density on the 6D manifold of symmetric positive definite tensors. In simulated two-fiber systems with varying Rician noise, we assessed how many diffusion-sensitized gradients were sufficient to (1) accurately resolve the diffusion profile, and (2) measure the exponential isotropy (EI), a TDF-derived measure of fiber integrity that exploits the full multidirectional HARDI signal. At lower SNR, the reconstruction accuracy, measured using the Kullback-Leibler divergence, rapidly increased with additional gradients, and EI estimation accuracy plateaued at around 70 gradients.
Date of Conference: June 28 2009-July 1 2009