Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is used to study tissue composition and architecture in vivo. To increase the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of DTI contrasts, studies typically use more than the minimum of 6 diffusion weighting (DW) directions or acquire repeated observations of the same set of DW directions. Simulation-based studies have sought to optimize DTI acquisitions and suggest that increasing the directional resolution of a DTI dataset (i.e., the number of distinct directions) is preferable to repeating observations, in an equal scan time comparison. However, it is not always clear how to translate these recommendations into practice when considering physiological noise and scanner stability. Furthermore, the effect of different DW schemes on in vivo DTI findings is not fully understood. This study characterizes how the makeup of a DW scheme, in terms of the number of directions, impacts the precision and accuracy of in vivo fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and principal eigenvector (PEV) findings. Orientation dependence of DTI reliability is demonstrated in vivo and a principled theoretical framework is provided to support and interpret findings with simulation results. As long as sampling orientations are well balanced, differences in DTI contrasts due to different DW schemes are shown to be small relative to intra-session variability. These differences are accentuated at low SNR, while minimized at high SNR. This result suggests that typical clinical studies, which use similar protocols but different well-balanced DW schemes, are readily comparable within the experimental precision.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience