Estimating localized complexity of white-matter wiring with GANs
In-vivo examination of the physical connectivity of axonal projections through the white matter of the human brain is made possible by diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) Analysis of dMRI commonly considers derived scalar metrics such as fractional anisotrophy as proxies for "white matter integrity," and differences of such measures have been observed as significantly correlating with various neurological diagnosis and clinical measures such as executive function, presence of multiple sclerosis, and genetic similarity. The analysis of such voxel measures is confounded in areas of more complicated fiber wiring due to crossing, kissing, and dispersing fibers. Recently, Volz et al. introduced a simple probabilistic measure of the count of distinct fiber populations within a voxel, which was shown to reduce variance in group comparisons. We propose a complementary measure that considers the complexity of a voxel in context of its local region, with an aim to quantify the localized wiring complexity of every part of white matter. This allows, for example, identification of particularly ambiguous regions of the brain for tractographic approaches of modeling global wiring connectivity. Our method builds on recent advances in image inpainting, in which the task is to plausibly fill in a missing region of an image. Our proposed method builds on a Bayesian estimate of heteroscedastic aleatoric uncertainty of a region of white matter by inpainting it from its context. We define the localized wiring complexity of white matter as how accurately and confidently a well-trained model can predict the missing patch. In our results, we observe low aleatoric uncertainty along major neuronal pathways which increases at junctions and towards cortex boundaries. This directly quantifies the difficulty of lesion inpainting of dMRI images at all parts of white matter.