To characterize the shape of the trajectories of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) biomarkers as a function of MMSE.
Longitudinal registries from the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).
Two different samples (n=343 and n=598) were created that spanned the cognitive spectrum from normal to AD dementia. Subgroup analyses were performed in members of both cohorts (n=243 and n=328) who were amyloid positive at baseline.
Main Outcome Measures
The shape of biomarker trajectories as a function of MMSE, adjusted for age, was modeled and described as baseline (cross-sectional) and within-subject longitudinal effects. Biomarkers evaluated were cerebro spinal fluid (CSF) Aβ42 and tau; amyloid and fluoro deoxyglucose position emission tomography (PET) imaging, and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Baseline biomarker values generally worsened (i.e., non-zero slope) with lower baseline MMSE. Baseline hippocampal volume, amyloid PET and FDG PET values plateaued (i.e., non-linear slope) with lower MMSE in one or more analyses. Longitudinally, within-subject rates of biomarker change were associated with worsening MMSE. Non-constant within-subject rates (deceleration) of biomarker change were found in only one model.
Biomarker trajectory shapes by MMSE were complex and were affected by interactions with age and APOE status. Non-linearity was found in several baseline effects models. Non-constant within-subject rates of biomarker change were found in only one model, likely due to limited within-subject longitudinal follow up. Creating reliable models that describe the full trajectories of AD biomarkers will require significant additional longitudinal data in individual participants.
Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; cerebro spinal fluid; amyloid PET imaging; FDG PET imaging
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is sensitive to the directionally- constrained flow of water, which diffuses preferentially along axons. Tractography programs may be used to infer matrices of connectivity (anatomical networks) between pairs of brain regions. Little is known about how these computed connectivity measures depend on the scans’ spatial and angular resolutions. To determine this, we scanned 8 young adults with DTI at 2.5 and 3 mm resolutions, and an additional subject at 4 resolutions between 2–4 mm. We computed 70×70 connectivity matrices, using whole-brain tractography to measure fiber density between all pairs of 70 cortical and subcortical regions. Spatial and angular resolution affected the computed connectivity for narrower tracts (internal capsule and cerebellum), but also for the corticospinal tract. Data resolution affected the apparent role of some key structures in cortical anatomic networks. Care is needed when comparing network data across studies, and interpreting apparent disagreements among findings.
Connectivity; diffusion imaging; tractography; networks; MRI; brain
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an established neurosurgical technique used to treat a variety of neurological disorders, including Parkinson disease, essential tremor, dystonia, epilepsy, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This study reports on the use of intraoperative MR imaging during DBS surgery to evaluate acute hemorrhage, intracranial air, brain shift, and accuracy of lead placement.
During a 46-month period, 143 patients underwent 152 DBS surgeries including 289 lead placements utilizing intraoperative 1.5-T MR imaging. Imaging was supervised by an MR imaging physicist to maintain the specific absorption rate below the required level of 0.1 W/kg and always included T1 magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo and T2* gradient echo sequences with selected use of T2 fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) and T2 fast spin echo (FSE). Retrospective review of the intraoperative MR imaging examinations was performed to quantify the amount of hemorrhage and the amount of air introduced during the DBS surgery.
Intraoperative MR imaging revealed 5 subdural hematomas, 3 subarachnoid hemorrhages, and 1 intra-parenchymal hemorrhage in 9 of the 143 patients. Only 1 patient experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage developed clinically apparent symptoms, which included transient severe headache and mild confusion. Brain shift due to intracranial air was identified in 144 separate instances.
Intraoperative MR imaging can be safely performed and may assist in demonstrating acute changes involving intracranial hemorrhage and air during DBS surgery. These findings are rarely clinically significant and typically resolve prior to follow-up imaging. Selective use of T2 FLAIR and T2 FSE imaging can confirm the presence of hemorrhage or air and preclude the need for CT examinations.
deep brain stimulation; intraoperative MR imaging; Parkinson disease; intracranial hemorrhage; functional neurosurgery
The application of sparsity-driven reconstruction methods to MRI to date has largely focused on situations where high-contrast features (e.g., gadolinium-enhanced vessels) are of primary interest. In clinical practice, however, low contrast features such as subtle lesions are often of equal or greater interest. Using an American College of Radiology (ACR) MR quality assurance phantom and test, we describe a novel framework for systematically and automatically evaluating the low-contrast object detectability (LCOD) performance of different undersampled image reconstruction methods. This platform is used to evaluate three such methods, two based on classic Tikhonov regularization and one sparsity-driven method based on ℓ1-norm minimization (which is commonly used in Compressive Sensing applications), across a wide range of sampling rates and parameterizations. Both the automated evaluation system and a manual evaluation of anatomical images with numerically-generated low contrast inserts demonstrate that sparse reconstructions exhibit superior LCOD performance compared to both Tikhonov-regularized reconstructions. The implications of this result, and potential applications of both the described LCOD platform and generalizations of it are then discussed.
Contrast; Detectability; Image Quality; Sparsity; Compressive Sensing
The promise of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarkers has led to their incorporation in new diagnostic criteria and in therapeutic trials; however, significant barriers exist to widespread use. Chief among these is the lack of internationally accepted standards for quantitative metrics. Hippocampal volumetry is the most widely studied quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measure in AD and thus represents the most rational target for an initial effort at standardization.
Methods and Results
The authors of this position paper propose a path toward this goal. The steps include: 1) Establish and empower an oversight board to manage and assess the effort, 2) Adopt the standardized definition of anatomic hippocampal boundaries on MRI arising from the EADC-ADNI hippocampal harmonization effort as a Reference Standard, 3) Establish a scientifically appropriate, publicly available Reference Standard Dataset based on manual delineation of the hippocampus in an appropriate sample of subjects (ADNI), and 4) Define minimum technical and prognostic performance metrics for validation of new measurement techniques using the Reference Standard Dataset as a benchmark.
Although manual delineation of the hippocampus is the best available reference standard, practical application of hippocampal volumetry will require automated methods. Our intent is to establish a mechanism for credentialing automated software applications to achieve internationally recognized accuracy and prognostic performance standards that lead to the systematic evaluation and then widespread acceptance and use of hippocampal volumetry. The standardization and assay validation process outlined for hippocampal volumetry is envisioned as a template that could be applied to other imaging biomarkers.
Alzheimer’s disease; biomarkers; Magnetic resonance imaging; hippocampus; biomarker standards
Functions of the ADNI MRI core fall into three categories: (1) those of the central MRI core lab at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, needed to generate high quality MRI data in all subjects at each time point; (2) those of the funded ADNI MRI core imaging analysis groups responsible for analyzing the MRI data, and (3) the joint function of the entire MRI core in designing and problem solving MR image acquisition, pre-processing and analyses methods. The primary objective of ADNI was and continues to be improving methods for clinical trials in Alzheimer's disease. Our approach to the present (“ADNI-GO”) and future (“ADNI-2”, if funded) MRI protocol will be to maintain MRI methodological consistency in previously enrolled “ADNI-1” subjects who are followed longitudinally in ADNI-GO and ADNI-2. We will modernize and expand the MRI protocol for all newly enrolled ADNI-GO and ADNI-2 subjects. All newly enrolled subjects will be scanned at 3T with a core set of three sequence types: 3D T1-weighted volume, FLAIR, and a long TE gradient echo volumetric acquisition for micro hemorrhage detection. In addition to this core ADNI-GO and ADNI-2 protocol, we will perform vendor specific pilot sub-studies of arterial spin labeling perfusion, resting state functional connectivity and diffusion tensor imaging. One each of these sequences will be added to the core protocol on systems from each MRI vendor. These experimental sub-studies are designed to demonstrate the feasibility of acquiring useful data in a multi-center (but single vendor) setting for these three emerging MRI applications.
The objective of this study was to investigate how a measure of educational and occupational attainment, a component of cognitive reserve, modifies the relationship between biomarkers of pathology and cognition in Alzheimer's disease. The biomarkers evaluated quantified neurodegeneration via atrophy on magnetic resonance images, neuronal injury via cerebral spinal fluid t-tau, brain amyloid-β load via cerebral spinal fluid amyloid-β1–42 and vascular disease via white matter hyperintensities on T2/proton density magnetic resonance images. We included 109 cognitively normal subjects, 192 amnestic patients with mild cognitive impairment and 98 patients with Alzheimer's disease, from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative study, who had undergone baseline lumbar puncture and magnetic resonance imaging. We combined patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease in a group labelled ‘cognitively impaired’ subjects. Structural Abnormality Index scores, which reflect the degree of Alzheimer's disease-like anatomic features on magnetic resonance images, were computed for each subject. We assessed Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale (cognitive behaviour section) and mini-mental state examination scores as measures of general cognition and Auditory–Verbal Learning Test delayed recall, Boston naming and Trails B scores as measures of specific domains in both groups of subjects. The number of errors on the American National Adult Reading Test was used as a measure of environmental enrichment provided by educational and occupational attainment, a component of cognitive reserve. We found that in cognitively normal subjects, none of the biomarkers correlated with the measures of cognition, whereas American National Adult Reading Test scores were significantly correlated with Boston naming and mini-mental state examination results. In cognitively impaired subjects, the American National Adult Reading Test and all biomarkers of neuronal pathology and amyloid load were independently correlated with all cognitive measures. Exceptions to this general conclusion were absence of correlation between cerebral spinal fluid amyloid-β1–42 and Boston naming and Trails B. In contrast, white matter hyperintensities were only correlated with Boston naming and Trails B results in the cognitively impaired. When all subjects were included in a flexible ordinal regression model that allowed for non-linear effects and interactions, we found that the American National Adult Reading Test had an independent additive association such that better performance was associated with better cognitive performance across the biomarker distribution. Our main conclusions included: (i) that in cognitively normal subjects, the variability in cognitive performance is explained partly by the American National Adult Reading Test and not by biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease pathology; (ii) in cognitively impaired subjects, the American National Adult Reading Test, biomarkers of neuronal pathology (structural magnetic resonance imaging and cerebral spinal fluid t-tau) and amyloid load (cerebral spinal fluid amyloid-β1–42) all independently explain variability in general cognitive performance; and (iii) that the association between cognition and the American National Adult Reading Test was found to be additive rather than to interact with biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease pathology.
Alzheimer's disease; mild cognitive impairment; CSF biomarkers; MRI; cognitive reserve
A key question in designing MRI-based clinical trials is how the main magnetic field strength of the scanner affects the power to detect disease effects. In 110 subjects scanned longitudinally at both 3.0 and 1.5 T, including 24 patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) [74.8 ± 9.2 years, MMSE: 22.6 ± 2.0 at baseline], 51 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) [74.1 ± 8.0 years, MMSE: 26.6 ± 2.0], and 35 controls [75.9 ± 4.6 years, MMSE: 29.3 ± 0.8], we assessed whether higher-field MR imaging offers higher or lower power to detect longitudinal changes in the brain, using tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to reveal the location of progressive atrophy. As expected, at both field strengths, progressive atrophy was widespread in AD and more spatially restricted in MCI. Power analysis revealed that, to detect a 25% slowing of atrophy (with 80% power), 37 AD and 108 MCI subjects would be needed at 1.5 T versus 49 AD and 166 MCI subjects at 3 T; however, the increased power at 1.5 T was not statistically significant (α = 0.05) either for TBM, or for SIENA, a related method for computing volume loss rates. Analysis of cumulative distribution functions and false discovery rates showed that, at both field strengths, temporal lobe atrophy rates were correlated with interval decline in Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog), mini-mental status exam (MMSE), and Clinical Dementia Rating sum-of-boxes (CDR-SB) scores. Overall, 1.5 and 3 T scans did not significantly differ in their power to detect neurodegenerative changes over a year.
Alzheimer's disease; tensor-based morphometry; MRI; field strength
Tensor-based morphometry (TBM) is a powerful method to map the 3D profile of brain degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). We optimized a TBM-based image analysis method to determine what methodological factors, and which image-derived measures, maximize statistical power to track brain change. 3D maps, tracking rates of structural atrophy over time, were created from 1030 longitudinal brain MRI scans (1-year follow-up) of 104 AD patients (age: 75.7 ± 7.2 years; MMSE: 23.3 ± 1.8, at baseline), 254 amnestic MCI subjects (75.0 ± 7.2 years; 27.0 ± 1.8), and 157 healthy elderly subjects (75.9 ± 5.1 years; 29.1 ± 1.0), as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). To determine which TBM designs gave greatest statistical power, we compared different linear and nonlinear registration parameters (including different regularization functions), and different numerical summary measures derived from the maps. Detection power was greatly enhanced by summarizing changes in a statistically-defined region-of-interest (ROI) derived from an independent training sample of 22 AD patients. Effect sizes were compared using cumulative distribution function (CDF) plots and false discovery rate methods. In power analyses, the best method required only 48 AD and 88 MCI subjects to give 80% power to detect a 25% reduction in the mean annual change using a two-sided test (at α = 0.05). This is a drastic sample size reduction relative to using clinical scores as outcome measures (619 AD/6797 MCI for the ADAS-Cog, and 408 AD/796 MCI for the Clinical Dementia Rating sum-of-boxes scores). TBM offers high statistical power to track brain changes in large, multi-site neuroimaging studies and clinical trials of AD.
Biomarkers of brain Aβ amyloid deposition can be measured either by cerebrospinal fluid Aβ42 or Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography imaging. Our objective was to evaluate the ability of Aβ load and neurodegenerative atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging to predict shorter time-to-progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s dementia and to characterize the effect of these biomarkers on the risk of progression as they become increasingly abnormal. A total of 218 subjects with mild cognitive impairment were identified from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The primary outcome was time-to-progression to Alzheimer’s dementia. Hippocampal volumes were measured and adjusted for intracranial volume. We used a new method of pooling cerebrospinal fluid Aβ42 and Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography measures to produce equivalent measures of brain Aβ load from either source and analysed the results using multiple imputation methods. We performed our analyses in two phases. First, we grouped our subjects into those who were ‘amyloid positive’ (n = 165, with the assumption that Alzheimer's pathology is dominant in this group) and those who were ‘amyloid negative’ (n = 53). In the second phase, we included all 218 subjects with mild cognitive impairment to evaluate the biomarkers in a sample that we assumed to contain a full spectrum of expected pathologies. In a Kaplan–Meier analysis, amyloid positive subjects with mild cognitive impairment were much more likely to progress to dementia within 2 years than amyloid negative subjects with mild cognitive impairment (50 versus 19%). Among amyloid positive subjects with mild cognitive impairment only, hippocampal atrophy predicted shorter time-to-progression (P < 0.001) while Aβ load did not (P = 0.44). In contrast, when all 218 subjects with mild cognitive impairment were combined (amyloid positive and negative), hippocampal atrophy and Aβ load predicted shorter time-to-progression with comparable power (hazard ratio for an inter-quartile difference of 2.6 for both); however, the risk profile was linear throughout the range of hippocampal atrophy values but reached a ceiling at higher values of brain Aβ load. Our results are consistent with a model of Alzheimer’s disease in which Aβ deposition initiates the pathological cascade but is not the direct cause of cognitive impairment as evidenced by the fact that Aβ load severity is decoupled from risk of progression at high levels. In contrast, hippocampal atrophy indicates how far along the neurodegenerative path one is, and hence how close to progressing to dementia. Possible explanations for our finding that many subjects with mild cognitive impairment have intermediate levels of Aβ load include: (i) individual subjects may reach an Aβ load plateau at varying absolute levels; (ii) some subjects may be more biologically susceptible to Aβ than others; and (iii) subjects with mild cognitive impairment with intermediate levels of Aβ may represent individuals with Alzheimer’s disease co-existent with other pathologies.
mild cognitive impairment; amyloid imaging; magnetic resonance imaging; cerebrospinal fluid; Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers
MRI has evolved into an important diagnostic technique in medical imaging. However, reliability of the derived diagnosis can be degraded by artifacts, which challenge both radiologists and automatic computer-aided diagnosis. This paper proposes a fully automatic method for measuring image quality of 3D structural MRI. Quality measures are derived by analyzing the air background of magnitude images and are capable of detecting image degradation from several sources, including bulk motion, residual magnetization from incomplete spoiling, blurring, ghosting, etc. The method has been validated on 749 3D T1-weighted 1.5 T and 3 T head scans acquired at 36 Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) study sites operating with various software and hardware combinations. Results are compared against qualitative grades assigned by the ADNI quality control center (taken as the reference standard). The derived quality indices are independent of the MRI system used and agree with the reference standard quality ratings with high sensitivity and specificity (>85%). The proposed procedures for quality assessment could be of great value for both research and routine clinical imaging. It could greatly improve workflow through its ability to rule-out the need for a repeat scan while the patient is still in the magnet bore.
Magnetic resonance imaging; automatic quality assessment; image quality; artifacts detection
Neuroimaging centers and pharmaceutical companies are working together to evaluate treatments that might slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a common but devastating late-life neuropathology. Recently, automated brain mapping methods, such as tensor-based morphometry (TBM) of structural MRI, have outperformed cognitive measures in their precision and power to track disease progression, greatly reducing sample size estimates for drug trials. In the largest TBM study to date, we studied how sample size estimates for tracking structural brain changes depend on the time interval between the scans (6–24 months). We analyzed 1309 brain scans from 91 probable AD patients (age at baseline: 75.4±7.5 years) and 189 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI; 74.6±7.1 years), scanned at baseline, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Statistical maps revealed 3D patterns of brain atrophy at each follow-up scan relative to the baseline; numerical summaries were used to quantify temporal lobe atrophy within a statistically-defined region-of-interest. Power analyses revealed superior sample size estimates over traditional clinical measures. Only 80, 46, and 39 AD patients were required for a hypothetical clinical trial, at 6, 12, and 24 months respectively, to detect a 25% reduction in average change using a two-sided test (α=0.05, power=80%). Correspondingly, 106, 79, and 67 subjects were needed for an equivalent MCI trial aiming for earlier intervention. A 24-month trial provides most power, except when patient attrition exceeds 15–16%/year, in which case a 12-month trial is optimal. These statistics may facilitate clinical trial design using voxel-based brain mapping methods such as TBM.
Tensor-based morphometry can recover three-dimensional longitudinal brain changes over time by nonlinearly registering baseline to follow-up MRI scans of the same subject. Here, we compared the anatomical distribution of longitudinal brain structural changes, over 12 months, using a subset of the ADNI dataset consisting of 20 patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), 40 healthy elderly controls, and 40 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Each individual longitudinal change map (Jacobian map) was created using an unbiased registration technique, and spatially normalized to a geometrically-centered average image based on healthy controls. Voxelwise statistical analyses revealed regional differences in atrophy rates, and these differences were correlated with clinical measures and biomarkers. Consistent with prior studies, we detected widespread cerebral atrophy in AD, and a more restricted atrophic pattern in MCI. In MCI, temporal lobe atrophy rates were correlated with changes in mini-mental state exam (MMSE) scores, clinical dementia rating (CDR), and logical/verbal learning memory scores. In AD, temporal atrophy rates were correlated with several biomarker indices, including a higher CSF level of p-tau protein, and a greater CSF tau/beta amyloid 1-42 (ABeta42) ratio. Temporal lobe atrophy was significantly faster in MCI subjects who converted to AD than in non-converters. Serial MRI scans can therefore be analyzed with nonlinear image registration to relate ongoing neurodegeneration to a variety of pathological biomarkers, cognitive changes, and conversion from MCI to AD, tracking disease progression in 3-dimensional detail.
Tensor-based morphometry (TBM) creates three-dimensional maps of disease-related differences in brain structure, based on nonlinearly registering brain MRI scans to a common image template. Using two different TBM designs (averaging individual differences versus aligning group average templates), we compared the anatomical distribution of brain atrophy in 40 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), 40 healthy elderly controls, and 40 individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), a condition conferring increased risk for AD. We created an unbiased geometrical average image template for each of the three groups, which were matched for sex and age (mean age: 76.1 years+/−7.7 SD). We warped each individual brain image (N=120) to the control group average template to create Jacobian maps, which show the local expansion or compression factor at each point in the image, reflecting individual volumetric differences. Statistical maps of group differences revealed widespread medial temporal and limbic atrophy in AD, with a lesser, more restricted distribution in MCI. Atrophy and CSF space expansion both correlated strongly with Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) scores and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR). Using cumulative p-value plots, we investigated how detection sensitivity was influenced by the sample size, the choice of search region (whole brain, temporal lobe, hippocampus), the initial linear registration method (9- versus 12-parameter), and the type of TBM design. In the future, TBM may help to (1) identify factors that resist or accelerate the disease process, and (2) measure disease burden in treatment trials.
Measures of structural brain change based on longitudinal MR imaging are increasingly important but can be degraded by intensity non-uniformity. This non-uniformity can be more pronounced at higher field strengths, or when using multichannel receiver coils. We assessed the ability of the non-parametric non-uniform intensity normalization (N3) technique to correct non-uniformity in 72 volumetric brain MR scans from the preparatory phase of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Normal elderly subjects (n = 18) were scanned on different 3-T scanners with a multichannel phased array receiver coil at baseline, using magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo (MP-RAGE) and spoiled gradient echo (SPGR) pulse sequences, and again 2 weeks later.
When applying N3, we used five brain masks of varying accuracy and four spline smoothing distances (d = 50, 100, 150 and 200 mm) to ascertain which combination of parameters optimally reduces the non-uniformity. We used the normalized white matter intensity variance (standard deviation/mean) to ascertain quantitatively the correction for a single scan; we used the variance of the normalized difference image to assess quantitatively the consistency of the correction over time from registered scan pairs.
Our results showed statistically significant (p < 0.01) improvement in uniformity for individual scans and reduction in the normalized difference image variance when using masks that identified distinct brain tissue classes, and when using smaller spline smoothing distances (e.g., 50-100 mm) for both MP-RAGE and SPGR pulse sequences. These optimized settings may assist future large-scale studies where 3-T scanners and phased array receiver coils are used, such as ADNI, so that intensity non-uniformity does not influence the power of MR imaging to detect disease progression and the factors that influence it.
The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) is a longitudinal multisite observational study of healthy elders, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer's disease. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), (18F)-fluorode-oxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET), urine serum, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, as well as clinical/psychometric assessments are acquiredat multiple time points. All data will be cross-linked and made available to the general scientific community. The purpose of this report is to describe the MRI methods employed in ADNI. The ADNI MRI core established specifications thatguided protocol development. A major effort was devoted toevaluating 3D T1-weighted sequences for morphometric analyses. Several options for this sequence were optimized for the relevant manufacturer platforms and then compared in a reduced-scale clinical trial. The protocol selected for the ADNI study includes: back-to-back 3D magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo (MP-RAGE) scans; B1-calibration scans when applicable; and an axial proton density-T2 dual contrast (i.e., echo) fast spin echo/turbo spin echo (FSE/TSE) for pathology detection. ADNI MRI methods seek to maximize scientific utility while minimizing the burden placed on participants. The approach taken in ADNI to standardization across sites and platforms of the MRI protocol, postacquisition corrections, and phantom-based monitoring of all scanners could be used as a model for other multisite trials.
MRI; Alzheimer's disease; clinical trials; imaging methods; imaging standardization
Measures of brain change can be computed from sequential MRI scans, providing valuable information on disease progression, e.g., for patient monitoring and drug trials. Tensor-based morphometry (TBM) creates maps of these brain changes, visualizing the 3D profile and rates of tissue growth or atrophy, but its sensitivity depends on the contrast and geometric stability of the images. A s part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), 17 normal elderly subjects were scanned twice (at a 2-week interval) with several 3D 1.5 T MRI pulse sequences: high and low flip angle SPGR/FLASH (from which Synthetic T1 images were generated), MP-RAGE, IR-SPGR (N = 10) and MEDIC (N = 7) scans. For each subject and scan type, a 3D deformation map aligned baseline and follow-up scans, computed with a nonlinear, inverse-consistent elastic registration algorithm. Voxelwise statistics, in ICBM stereotaxic space, visualized the profile of mean absolute change and its cross-subject variance; these maps were then compared using permutation testing. Image stability depended on: (1) the pulse sequence; (2) the transmit/receive coil type (birdcage versus phased array); (3) spatial distortion corrections (using MEDIC sequence information); (4) B1-field intensity inhomogeneity correction (using N3). SPGR/FLASH images acquired using a birdcage coil had least overall deviation. N3 correction reduced coil type and pulse sequence differences and improved scan reproducibility, except for Synthetic T1 images (which were intrinsically corrected for B1-inhomogeneity). No strong evidence favored B0 correction. Although SPGR/FLASH images showed least deviation here, pulse sequence selection for the ADNI project was based on multiple additional image analyses, to be reported elsewhere.