Ning L, Westin CF, Rathi Y
IEEE Trans Med Imaging 2015 Oct;34(10):2058-78
The ensemble average diffusion propagator (EAP) obtained from diffusion MRI (dMRI) data captures important structural properties of the underlying tissue. As such, it is imperative to derive an accurate estimate of the EAP from the acquired diffusion data. In this work, we propose a novel method for estimating the EAP by representing the diffusion signal as a linear combination of directional radial basis functions scattered in q-space. In particular, we focus on a special case of anisotropic Gaussian basis functions and derive analytical expressions for the diffusion orientation distribution function (ODF), the return-to-origin probability (RTOP), and mean-squared-displacement (MSD). A significant advantage of the proposed method is that the second and the fourth order moment tensors of the EAP can be computed explicitly. This allows for computing several novel scalar indices (from the moment tensors) such as mean-fourth-order-displacement (MFD) and generalized kurtosis (GK)-which is a generalization of the mean kurtosis measure used in diffusion kurtosis imaging. Additionally, we also propose novel scalar indices computed from the signal in q-space, called the q-space mean-squared-displacement (QMSD) and the q-space mean-fourth-order-displacement (QMFD), which are sensitive to short diffusion time scales. We validate our method extensively on data obtained from a physical phantom with known crossing angle as well as on in-vivo human brain data. Our experiments demonstrate the robustness of our method for different combinations of b-values and number of gradient directions.