Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DMRI) is a medical imaging technique that is used to estimate the anatomical network of neuronal fibers in the brain, in vivo, by measuring and exploiting the constrained diffusion properties of water molecules in the presence of bundles of neurons. Water molecules will diffuse more readily along fibrous bundles (think of fiber optics cables), then in directions against them. Therefore by measuring the relative rates of water diffusion along different spatial directions, we can estimate the orientations of fibers in the brain. In particular, one important type of DMRI technique that we will analyze is high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) which measures water diffusion with an increased level of angular resolution in order to better estimate the probability of fiber orientation, known as the Orientation Distribution Function (ODF). HARDI is an advancement over the clinically popular Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) which requires less angular measurements because of a Gaussian assumption which restricts the number of fiber orientations that can be estimated in each voxel. More accurate estimates of ODFs at the voxel level using HARDI lead to more accurate reconstructions of fiber networks. For instance, the extraction of neuronal fibers from HARDI can help understand brain anatomical and functional connectivity in the corpus callosum, cingulum, thalamic radiations, optical nerves, etc. DMRI has been vital in the understanding of brain development and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, autism, and reading disability.
To make DMRI beneficial in both diagnosis and clinical applications, it is of fundamental importance to develop computational and mathematical algorithms for analyzing this complex DMRI data. In this research area, we aim to develop methods for processing and analyzing HARDI data with an ultimate goal of applying these computational tools for robust disease classification and characterization.
Current research areas include:
- SPARSE HARDI RECONSTRUCTION. To develop advanced algorithms for the sparse representation and reconstruction of HARDI signals with the goals of speeding up HARDI acquisition and compact data compression.
- ODF ESTIMATION. To develop advanced algorithms for computing accurate fields of Orientation Distribution Functions (ODFs) from HARDI data.
- HARDI FEATURE EXTRACTION. To develop methods for extracting features from high-dimensional HARDI data that can be exploited for ODF clustering, fiber segmentation, HARDI registration and disease classification.
- HARDI REGISTRATION. To develop advanced algorithms for the registration of HARDI brain volumes to preserve fiber orientation information.
- DISEASE CLASSIFICIATION. To develop advanced classification techniques using novel HARDI feature representations to robustly classify and characterize neurological disease.