Diffeomorphic functional brain surface alignment: Functional demons

Nenning, KH; Liu, HS; Ghosh, SS; Sabuncu, MR; Schwartz, E; Langs, G

Nenning, KH; Langs, G (reprint author), Med Univ Vienna, Computat Imaging Res Lab, Dept Biomed Imaging & Image Guided Therapy, Vienna, Austria.; Langs, G (reprint author), MIT, Comp Sci & Artificial Intelligence Lab, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02

NEUROIMAGE, 2017; 156 ( ): 456

Abstract

Aligning brain structures across individuals is a central prerequisite for comparative neuroimaging studies. Typically, registration approaches assume a strong association between the features used for alignment, such as macro-anatomy, and the variable observed, such as functional activation or connectivity. Here, we propose to use the structure of intrinsic resting state fMRI signal correlation patterns as a basis for alignment of the cortex in functional studies. Rather than assuming the spatial correspondence of functional structures between subjects, we have identified locations with similar connectivity profiles across subjects. We mapped functional connectivity relationships within the brain into an embedding space, and aligned the resulting maps of multiple subjects. We then performed a diffeomorphic alignment of the cortical surfaces, driven by the corresponding features in the joint embedding space. Results show that functional alignment based on resting state fMRI identifies functionally homologous regions across individuals with higher accuracy than alignment based on the spatial correspondence of anatomy. Further, functional alignment enables measurement of the strength of the anatomo-functional link across the cortex, and reveals the uneven distribution of this link. Stronger anatomo-functional dissociation was found in higher association areas compared to primary sensory-and motor areas. Functional alignment based on resting state features improves group analysis of task based functional MRI data, increasing statistical power and improving the delineation of task-specific core regions. Finally, a comparison of the anatomo-functional dissociation between cohorts is demonstrated with a group of left and right handed subjects.

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