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Publication Detail
Diffusion-Weighted Imaging: Recent Advances and Applications
Quantitative diffusion imaging techniques enable the characterization of tissue microstructural properties of the human brain “in vivo”, and are widely used in neuroscientific and clinical contexts. In this review, we present the basic physical principles behind diffusion imaging and provide an overview of the current diffusion techniques, including standard and advanced techniques as well as their main clinical applications. Standard diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) offers sensitivity to changes in microstructure due to diseases and enables the characterization of single fiber distributions within a voxel as well as diffusion anisotropy. Nonetheless, its inability to represent complex intravoxel fiber topologies and the limited biological specificity of its metrics motivated the development of several advanced diffusion MRI techniques. For example, high-angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) techniques enabled the characterization of fiber crossing areas and other complex fiber topologies in a single voxel and supported the development of higher-order signal representations aiming to decompose the diffusion MRI signal into distinct microstructure compartments. Biophysical models, often known by their acronym (e.g., CHARMED, WMTI, NODDI, DBSI, DIAMOND) contributed to capture the diffusion properties from each of such tissue compartments, enabling the computation of voxel-wise maps of axonal density and/or morphology that hold promise as clinically viable biomarkers in several neurological and neuroscientific applications; for example, to quantify tissue alterations due to disease or healthy processes. Current challenges and limitations of state-of-the-art models are discussed, including validation efforts. Finally, novel diffusion encoding approaches (e.g., b-tensor or double diffusion encoding) may increase the biological specificity of diffusion metrics towards intra-voxel diffusion heterogeneity in clinical settings, holding promise in neurological applications.
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