Hum Brain Mapp, Sep 2020

Simultaneous voxel-wise analysis of brain and spinal cord morphometry and microstructure within the SPM framework

Azzarito Michela, Sreenath P Kyathanahally, Yaël Balbastre, Maryam Seif, Claudia Blaiotta, Martina F Callaghan, John Ashburner, Patrick Freund


To validate a simultaneous analysis tool for the brain and cervical cord embedded in the statistical parametric mapping (SPM) framework, we compared trauma-induced macro- and microstructural changes in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients to controls. The findings were compared with results obtained from existing processing tools that assess the brain and spinal cord separately. A probabilistic brain-spinal cord template (BSC) was generated using a generative semi-supervised modelling approach. The template was incorporated into the pre-processing pipeline of voxel-based morphometry and voxel-based quantification analyses in SPM. This approach was validated on T1-weighted scans and multiparameter maps, by assessing trauma-induced changes in SCI patients relative to controls and comparing the findings with the outcome from existing analytical tools. Consistency of the MRI measures was assessed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). The SPM approach using the BSC template revealed trauma-induced changes across the sensorimotor system in the cord and brain in SCI patients. These changes were confirmed with established approaches covering brain or cord, separately. The ICC in the brain was high within regions of interest, such as the sensorimotor cortices, corticospinal tracts and thalamus. The simultaneous voxel-wise analysis of brain and cervical spinal cord was performed in a unique SPM-based framework incorporating pre-processing and statistical analysis in the same environment. Validation based on a SCI cohort demonstrated that the new processing approach based on the brain and cord is comparable to available processing tools, while offering the advantage of performing the analysis simultaneously across the neuraxis.

Read the full text