Test-Retest Reliability of Diffusion Measures Extracted Along White Matter Language Fiber Bundles Using HARDI-Based Tractography


High angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI)-based tractography has been increasingly used in longitudinal studies on white matter macro- and micro-structural changes in the language network during language acquisition and in language impairments. However, test-retest reliability measurements are essential to ascertain that the longitudinal variations observed are not related to data processing. The aims of this study were to determine the reproducibility of the reconstruction of major white matter fiber bundles of the language network using anatomically constrained probabilistic tractography with constrained spherical deconvolution based on HARDI data, as well as to assess the test-retest reliability of diffusion measures extracted along them. Eighteen right-handed participants were scanned twice, one week apart. The arcuate, inferior longitudinal, inferior fronto-occipital, and uncinate fasciculi were reconstructed in the left and right hemispheres and the following diffusion measures were extracted along each tract: fractional anisotropy, mean, axial, and radial diffusivity, number of fiber orientations, mean length of streamlines, and volume. All fiber bundles showed good morphological overlap between the two scanning timepoints and the test-retest reliability of all diffusion measures in most fiber bundles was good to excellent. We thus propose a fairly simple, but robust, HARDI-based tractography pipeline reliable for the longitudinal study of white matter language fiber bundles, which increases its potential applicability to research on the neurobiological mechanisms supporting language.

Front Neurosci
Mariem Boukadi, Ph.D.
Ph.D. candidate