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Extending the frontiers of neuroimaging: an introduction to Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography

Authors:

Anastasia Mirza-Davies ,

Cardiff University, GB
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Judith Harrison

Cardiff University, GB
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Abstract

Summary:

The use of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) tractography has exploded over the past two decades, proving to be a major advancement in the current methods for exploring the architecture of white matter tracts in the living human brain. Despite making up 50% of brain tissue, investigations into the function of white matter have long remained in the background of medical research. Consequently, white matter pathology cited in neuropsychiatric disease remains a heavy burden of human illness. Nonetheless, with novel diffusion MRI techniques, including DTI tractography, we are able to visualise areas of the brain better than ever before, furthering our understanding of white matter beyond the crude depictions offered by conventional MRI.

Relevance:

It is important that medical students have an understanding of DTI tractography because it has the potential to illuminate mechanisms that underpin cognition and emotion through the creation of connectional maps. Furthermore, advances in MR technology should not be restricted to the territory of academics. Instead, both medical students and clinicians should be able to draw upon the current research methods to improve the care and understanding of patients with white matter pathology.

Take Home Messages:

1. Diffusion Tensor Imaging is a diffusion MRI technique that depicts the movement of water molecules along major white matter pathways in the living brain.

2. Using information from DTI, tractography software virtually reconstructs white matter tracts and can be used to make dissections of major fasciculi in vivo.

3. DTI tractography remains the only non-invasive method to study white matter tracts in the living human brain.

4. Results from tractography are increasingly being used in neuropsychiatric research.

5. Despite its potential, DTI tractography still faces a number of challenges. The most prominent of these being its inability to accurately map crossing fibres within a voxel.

How to Cite: Mirza-Davies A, Harrison J. Extending the frontiers of neuroimaging: an introduction to Diffusion Tensor Imaging Tractography. The British Student Doctor Journal. 2019;3(2):34–9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/bsdj.80
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Published on 30 Jun 2019.
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