Diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) is interpreted as a quantitative method that is sensitive to tissue microarchitecture at a millimeter scale. However, the sensitization is dependent on acquisition sequences (e.g., diffusion time, gradient strength, etc.) and susceptible to imaging artifacts. Hence, comparison of quantitative DW-MRI biomarkers across field strengths (including different scanners, hardware performance, and sequence design considerations) is a challenging area of research. We propose a novel method to estimate microstructure using DW-MRI that is robust to scanner difference between 1.5T and 3T imaging. We propose to use a null space deep network (NSDN) architecture to model DW-MRI signal as fiber orientation distributions (FOD) to represent tissue microstructure. The NSDN approach is consistent with histologically observed microstructure (on previously acquired ex vivo squirrel monkey dataset) and scan-rescan data. The contribution of this work is that we incorporate identical dual networks (IDN) to minimize the influence of scanner effects via scan-rescan data. Briefly, our estimator is trained on two datasets. First, a histology dataset was acquired on three squirrel monkeys with corresponding DW-MRI and confocal histology (512 independent voxels). Second, 37 control subjects from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (67-95 y/o) were identified who had been scanned at 1.5T and 3T scanners (b-value of 700 s/mm2 , voxel resolution at 2.2mm, 30-32 gradient volumes) with an average interval of 4 years (standard deviation 1.3 years). After image registration, we used paired white matter (WM) voxels for 17 subjects and 440 histology voxels for training and 20 subjects and 72 histology voxels for testing. We compare the proposed estimator with super-resolved constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD) and a previously presented regression deep neural network (DNN). NSDN outperformed CSD and DNN in angular correlation coefficient (ACC) 0.81 versus 0.28 and 0.46, mean squared error (MSE) 0.001 versus 0.003 and 0.03, and general fractional anisotropy (GFA) 0.05 versus 0.05 and 0.09. Further validation and evaluation with contemporaneous imaging are necessary, but the NSDN is promising avenue for building understanding of microarchitecture in a consistent and deviceindependent manner.
Diffusion weighted MRI (DW-MRI) depends on accurate quantification signal intensities that reflect directional apparent diffusion coefficients (ADC). Signal drift and fluctuations during imaging can cause systematic non-linearities that manifest as ADC changes if not corrected. Here, we present a case study on a large longitudinal dataset of typical diffusion tensor imaging. We investigate observed variation in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) regions of the brain, which should represent compartments with isotropic diffusivity. The study contains 3949 DW-MRI acquisitions of the human brain with 918 subjects and 542 with repeated scan sessions. We provide an analysis of the inter-scan, inter-session, and intra-session variation and an analysis of the associations with the applied diffusion gradient directions. We investigate a hypothesis that CSF models could be used in lieu of an interspersed minimally diffusion-weighted image (b0) correction. Variation in CSF signal is not largely attributable to within-scan dynamic anatomical changes (3.6%), but rather has substantial variation across scan sessions (10.6%) and increased variation across individuals (26.6%). Unfortunately, CSF intensity is not solely explained by a main drift model or a gradient model, but rather has statistically significant associations with both possible explanations. Further exploration is necessary for CSF drift to be used as an effective harmonization technique.