Subject-specific longitudinal DTI study is vital for investigation of pathological changes of lesions and disease evolution. Spatial Regression Analysis of Diffusion tensor imaging (SPREAD) is a non-parametric permutation-based statistical framework that combines spatial regression and resampling techniques to achieve effective detection of localized longitudinal diffusion changes within the whole brain at individual level without a priori hypotheses. However, boundary blurring and dislocation limit its sensitivity, especially towards detecting lesions of irregular shapes. In the present study, we propose an improved SPREAD (dubbed improved SPREAD, or iSPREAD) method by incorporating a three-dimensional (3D) nonlinear anisotropic diffusion filtering method, which provides edge-preserving image smoothing through a nonlinear scale space approach. The statistical inference based on iSPREAD was evaluated and compared with the original SPREAD method using both simulated and in vivo human brain data. Results demonstrated that the sensitivity and accuracy of the SPREAD method has been improved substantially by adapting nonlinear anisotropic filtering. iSPREAD identifies subject-specific longitudinal changes in the brain with improved sensitivity, accuracy, and enhanced statistical power, especially when the spatial correlation is heterogeneous among neighboring image pixels in DTI.
- adaptive filtering
- diffusion tensor imaging
- non-parametric resampling
- spatial regression
- subject-specific longitudinal study