Resolving crossing fibres using constrained spherical deconvolution: Validation using diffusion-weighted imaging phantom data
Diffusion-weighted imaging can potentially be used to infer the connectivity of the human brain in vivo using fibre-tracking techniques, and is therefore of great interest to neuroscientists and clinicians. A key requirement for fibre tracking is the accurate estimation of white matter fibre orientations within each imaging voxel. The diffusion tensor model, which is widely used for this purpose, has been shown to be inadequate in crossing fibre regions. A number of approaches have recently been proposed to address this issue, based on high angular resolution diffusion-weighted imaging (HARDI) data. In this study, an experimental model of crossing fibres, consisting of water-filled plastic capillaries, is used to thoroughly assess three such techniques: constrained spherical deconvolution (CSD), super-resolved CSD (super-CSD) and Q-ball imaging (QBI). HARDI data were acquired over a range of crossing angles and b-values, from which fibre orientations were computed using each technique. All techniques were capable of resolving the two fibre populations down to a crossing angle of 45°, and down to 30° for super-CSD. A bias was observed in the fibre orientations estimated by QBI for crossing angles other than 90°, consistent with previous simulation results. Finally, for a 45° crossing, the minimum b-value required to resolve the fibre orientations was 4000s/mm2 for QBI, 2000s/mm2 for CSD, and 1000s/mm2 for super-CSD. The quality of estimation of fibre orientations may profoundly affect fibre tracking attempts, and the results presented provide important additional information regarding performance characteristics of well-known methods.