Characterization of displaced white matter by brain tumors using combined DTI and fMRI

Schonberg T, Pianka P, Hendler T, Pasternak O, Assaf Y

Neuroimage 2006 May;30(4):1100-11

PMID: 16427322


In vivo white matter tractography by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has become a popular tool for investigation of white matter architecture in the normal brain. Despite some unresolved issues regarding the accuracy of DTI, recent studies applied DTI for delineating white matter organization in the vicinity of brain lesions and especially brain tumors. Apart from the intrinsic limitations of DTI, the tracking of fibers in the vicinity or within lesions is further complicated due to changes in diseased tissue such as elevated water content (edema), tissue compression and degeneration. These changes deform the architecture of the white matter and in some cases prevent definite selection of the seed region of interest (ROI) from which fiber tracking begins. We show here that for displaced fiber systems, the use of anatomical approach for seed ROI selection yields insufficient results. Alternatively, we propose to select the seed points based on functional MRI activations which constrain the subjective seed ROI selection. The results are demonstrated on two major fiber systems: the pyramidal tract and the superior longitudinal fasciculus that connect critical motor and language areas, respectively. The fMRI based seed ROI selection approach enabled a more comprehensive mapping of these fiber systems. Furthermore, this procedure enabled the characterization of displaced white matter using the eigenvalue decomposition of DTI. We show that along the compressed fiber system, the diffusivity parallel to the fiber increases, while that perpendicular to the fibers decreases, leading to an overall increase in the fractional anisotropy index reflecting the compression of the fiber bundle. We conclude that definition of the functional network of a subject with deformed white matter should be done carefully. With fMRI, one can more accurately define the seed ROI for DTI based tractography and to provide a more comprehensive, functionally related, white matter mapping, a very important tool used in pre-surgical mapping.