PopTract: Population-based tractography

Pew Thian Yap, John H. Gilmore, Weili Lin, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


White matter fiber tractography plays a key role in the in vivo understanding of brain circuitry. For tract-based comparison of a population of images, a common approach is to first generate an atlas by averaging, after spatial normalization, all images in the population, and then perform tractography using the constructed atlas. The reconstructed fiber trajectories form a common geometry onto which diffusion properties of each individual subject can be projected based on the corresponding locations in the subject native space. However, in the case of high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI), where modeling fiber crossings is an important goal, the above-mentioned averaging method for generating an atlas results in significant error in the estimation of local fiber orientations and causes a major loss of fiber crossings. These limitatitons have significant impact on the accuracy of the reconstructed fiber trajectories and jeopardize subsequent tract-based analysis. As a remedy, we present in this paper a more effective means of performing tractography at a population level. Our method entails determining a bipolar Watson distribution at each voxel location based on information given by all images in the population, giving us not only the local principal orientations of the fiber pathways, but also confidence levels of how reliable these orientations are across subjects. The distribution field is then fed as an input to a probabilistic tractography framework for reconstructing a set of fiber trajectories that are consistent across all images in the population. We observe that the proposed method, called PopTract, results in significantly better preservation of fiber crossings, and hence yields better trajectory reconstruction in the atlas space.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5766754
Pages (from-to)1829-1840
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Oct


  • Brain circuitry
  • diffusion-weighted imaging
  • fiber tractography
  • population tractography
  • white matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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