Fiber tracking using magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging and its applications to human brain development

Authors

  • Richard Watts,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
    • Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center, Box 234, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021
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  • Conor Liston,

    1. Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
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  • Sumit Niogi,

    1. Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
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  • Aziz M. Uluğ

    1. Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
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Abstract

Diffusion tensor imaging is unique in its ability to noninvasively visualize white matter fiber tracts in the human brain in vivo. Diffusion is the incoherent motion of water molecules on a microscopic scale. This motion is itself dependent on the micro-structural environment that restricts the movement of the water molecules. In white matter fibers there is a pronounced directional dependence on diffusion. With white matter fiber tracking or tractography, projections among brain regions can be detected in the three-dimensional diffusion tensor dataset according to the directionality of the fibers. Examples of developmental changes in diffusion, tracking of major fiber tracts, and examples of how diffusion tensor tractography and functional magnetic resonance imaging can be combined are provided. These techniques are complimentary and allow both the identification of the eloquent areas of the brain involved in specific functional tasks, and the connections between them. The noninvasive nature of magnetic resonance imaging will allow these techniques to be used in both longitudinal developmental and diagnostic studies. An overview of the technique and preliminary applications are presented, along with its current limitations. MRDD Research Reviews 2003;9:168–177. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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