Spatial versus angular resolution for tractography-assisted planning of deep brain stimulation

Luka C. Liebrand, Guido A. van Wingen, Frans M. Vos, Damiaan Denys, Matthan W.A. Caan

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Given the restricted total scanning time for clinical neuroimaging, it is unclear whether clinical diffusion MRI protocols would benefit more from higher spatial resolution or higher angular resolution. In this work, we investigated the relative benefit of improving spatial or angular resolution in diffusion MRI to separate two parallel running white matter tracts that are targets for deep brain stimulation: the anterior thalamic radiation and the supero-lateral branch of the medial forebrain bundle. Both these tracts are situated in the ventral anterior limb of the internal capsule, and recent studies suggest that targeting a specific tract could improve treatment efficacy. Therefore, we scanned 19 healthy volunteers at 3T and 7T according to three diffusion MRI protocols with respectively standard clinical settings, increased spatial resolution of 1.4 mm, and increased angular resolution (64 additional gradient directions at b = 2200s/mm2). We performed probabilistic tractography for all protocols and quantified the separability of both tracts. The higher spatial resolution protocol improved separability by 41% with respect to the clinical standard, presumably due to decreased partial voluming. The higher angular resolution protocol resulted in increased apparent tract volumes and overlap, which is disadvantageous for application in precise treatment planning. We thus recommend to increase the spatial resolution for deep brain stimulation planning to 1.4 mm while maintaining angular resolution. This recommendation complements the general advice to aim for high angular resolution to resolve crossing fibers, confirming that the specific application and anatomical considerations are leading in clinical diffusion MRI protocol optimization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102116
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Angular and spatial resolution
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Diffusion MRI
  • Internal capsule
  • Tractography

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