Subject-motion correction in HARDI acquisitions: Choices and consequences

Shireen Elhabian, Yaniv Gur, Clement Vachet, Joseph Piven, Martin Styner, Ilana R. Leppert, G. Bruce Pike, Guido Gerig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is known to be prone to artifacts related to motion originating from subject movement, cardiac pulsation and breathing, but also to mechanical issues such as table vibrations. Given the necessity for rigorous quality control and motion correction, users are often left to use simple heuristics to select correction schemes, which involves simple qualitative viewing of the set of DWI data, or the selection of transformation parameter thresholds for detection of motion outliers. The scientific community offers strong theoretical and experimental work on noise reduction and orientation distribution function (ODF) reconstruction techniques for HARDI data, where postacquisition motion correction is widely performed, eg., using the open-source DTIprep software (Oguz et al., 2014), FSL (the FMRIB Software Library) (Jenkinson et al., 2012) or TORTOISE (Pierpaoli et al., 2010). Nonetheless, effects and consequences of the selection of motion correction schemes on the final analysis, and the eventual risk of introducing confounding factors when comparing populations, are much less known and far beyond simple intuitive guessing. Hence, standard users lack clear guidelines and recommendations in practical settings. This paper reports a comprehensive evaluation framework to systematically assess the outcome of different motion correction choices commonly used by the scientific community on different DWI-derived measures. We make use of human brain HARDI data from a well-controlled motion experiment to simulate various degrees of motion corruption and noise contamination. Choices for correction include exclusion/scrubbing or registration of motion corrupted directions with different choices of interpolation, as well as the option of interpolation of all directions. The comparative evaluation is based on a study of the impact of motion correction using four metrics that quantify (1) similarity of fiber orientation distribution functions (fODFs), (2) deviation of local fiber orientations, (3) global brain connectivity via Graph Diffusion Distance (GDD) and (4) the reproducibility of prominent and anatomically defined fiber tracts. Effects of various motion correction choices are systematically explored and illustrated, leading to a general conclusion of discouraging users from setting ad-hoc thresholds on the estimated motion parameters beyond which volumes are claimed to be corrupted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-54
Number of pages54
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 2014


  • Fiber orientations
  • Impact quantification
  • Motion correction
  • Orientation distribution functions
  • Subject motion
  • Tractography comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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