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Network Neuroscience

Olaf Sporns, Editor
2018, Vol. 2, No. 3, Pages 362-380
(doi: 10.1162/netn_a_00035)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Effect of different spatial normalization approaches on tractography and structural brain networks
Article PDF (3.4 MB)
To facilitate the comparison of white matter morphologic connectivity across target populations, it is invaluable to map the data to a standardized neuroanatomical space. Here, we evaluated direct streamline normalization (DSN), where the warping was applied directly to the streamlines, with two publically available approaches that spatially normalize the diffusion data and then reconstruct the streamlines. Prior work has shown that streamlines generated after normalization from reoriented diffusion data do not reliably match the streamlines generated in native space. To test the impact of these different normalization methods on quantitative tractography measures, we compared the reproducibility of the resulting normalized connectivity matrices and network metrics with those originally obtained in native space. The two methods that reconstruct streamlines after normalization led to significant differences in network metrics with large to huge standardized effect sizes, reflecting a dramatic alteration of the same subject’s native connectivity. In contrast, after normalizing with DSN we found no significant difference in network metrics compared with native space with only very small-to-small standardized effect sizes. DSN readily outperformed the other methods at preserving native space connectivity and introduced novel opportunities to define connectome networks without relying on gray matter parcellations.Direct streamline normalization (DSN) directly warps the streamlines into any template space by using the transformations output from Advanced Normalization Tools (ANTs). DSN overcomes the limitations of diffusion weighted images (DWI) spatial normalization. It allows DWIs to be acquired with any desired sampling scheme. Fiber orientation distributions (FODs) or orientation distribution functions (ODFs) can also be reconstructed using any desired method and streamlines generated using any algorithm. Most importantly, it avoids the problem of generating tracts from FODs or ODFs that have become distorted because of spatial normalization. Our results show that DSN has minimal influence on tractography measures such as tract count and structure and does not significantly alter structural networks with only very small to small effect sizes. We have developed a framework in Python that works with most diffusion software platforms. It is available at http://github.com/clintg6/DSN.