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Automated Segmentation of Cortical Grey Matter from T1-Weighted MRI Images

Published: January 7th, 2019



1Huntington's Disease Research Centre, UCL Institute of Neurology

This protocol describes the process of applying seven different automated segmentation tools to structural T1-weighted MRI scans to delineate grey matter regions that can be used for the quantification of grey matter volume.

Within neuroimaging research, a number of recent studies have discussed the impact of between-study differences in volumetric findings that are thought to result from the use of different segmentation tools to generate brain volumes. Here, processing pipelines for seven automated tools that can be used to segment grey matter within the brain are presented. The protocol provides an initial step for researchers aiming to find the most accurate method for generating grey matter volumes from T1-weighted MRI scans. Steps to undertake detailed visual quality control are also included in the manuscript. This protocol covers a range of potential segmentation tools and encourages users to compare the performance of these tools within a subset of their data before selecting one to apply to a full cohort. Furthermore, the protocol may be further generalized to the segmentation of other brain regions.

Neuroimaging is widely used in both clinical and research settings. There is a current move to improve the reproducibility of studies that quantify brain volume from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans; thus, it is important that investigators share experiences of using available MRI tools for segmenting MRI scans into regional volumes, to improve the standardization and optimization of methods1. This protocol provides a step-by-step guide to using seven different tools to segment the cortical grey matter (CGM; grey matter which excludes subcortical regions) from T1-weighted MRI scans. These tools were previously used in a methodological com....

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Note: Ensure that all images are in NifTI format. Conversion to NifTI is not covered here.

1. Segmentation via SPM 8: Unified Segment

NOTE: This procedure is performed via the SPM8 GUI which operates within Matlab. The SPM8 guide provides further detail and can be found at:

  1. Make sure that SPM8 is installed and set in the software path.
  2. SPM segmentation is performed using a GUI. To o.......

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Average brain volumes for 20 control participants, along with demographic information, is shown in Table 1. This acts as a guide for expected values when using these tools. Results should be viewed in the context of the original T1.nii image. All GM regions should be inspected as per the steps described in section 8. When performing visual QC, it is important to directly compare the GM regions to the T1 scan by viewing them overlaid on the T1.

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Recently, research has demonstrated that the use of different volumetric methods may have important implications for neuroimaging studies1,2. By publishing protocols that help guide novice users in how to apply different neuroimaging tools, as well as how to perform QC on the results output by these tools, researchers may select the best method to apply to their dataset.

While most steps in this SOP can be adjusted to suit the data and.......

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We wish to thank all those at the CHDI/High Q Foundation responsible for the TRACK-HD study; in particular, Beth Borowsky, Allan Tobin, Daniel van Kammen, Ethan Signer, and Sherry Lifer. The authors also wish to extend their gratitude to the TRACK-HD study participants and their families. This work was undertaken at UCLH/UCL, which received a proportion of funding from the Department of Health's National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centres funding scheme. S.J.T. acknowledges support of the National Institute for Health Research through the Dementias and Neurodegenerative Research Network, DeNDRoN.


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