A tract-specific approach to assessing white matter in preterm infants

Diliana Pecheva, Paul Yushkevich, Dafnis Batalle, Emer Hughes, Paul Aljabar, Julia Wurie, Joseph V. Hajnal, A. David Edwards, Daniel C. Alexander, Serena J. Counsell, Hui Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
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Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is becoming an increasingly important tool for studying brain development. DWI analyses relying on manually-drawn regions of interest and tractography using manually-placed waypoints are considered to provide the most accurate characterisation of the underlying brain structure. However, these methods are labour-intensive and become impractical for studies with large cohorts and numerous white matter (WM) tracts. Tract-specific analysis (TSA) is an alternative WM analysis method applicable to large-scale studies that offers potential benefits. TSA produces a skeleton representation of WM tracts and projects the group's diffusion data onto the skeleton for statistical analysis. In this work we evaluate the performance of TSA in analysing preterm infant data against results obtained from native space tractography and tract-based spatial statistics. We evaluate TSA's registration accuracy of WM tracts and assess the agreement between native space data and template space data projected onto WM skeletons, in 12 tracts across 48 preterm neonates. We show that TSA registration provides better WM tract alignment than a previous protocol optimised for neonatal spatial normalisation, and that TSA projects FA values that match well with values derived from native space tractography. We apply TSA for the first time to a preterm neonatal population to study the effects of age at scan on WM tracts around term equivalent age. We demonstrate the effects of age at scan on DTI metrics in commissural, projection and association fibres. We demonstrate the potential of TSA for WM analysis and its suitability for infant studies involving multiple tracts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-694
Number of pages20
Early online date27 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017


  • Diffusion weighted MRI
  • preterm
  • infant
  • white matter
  • tract-specific analysis


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