AUTHORS: Canales-Rodríguez EJ, Pizzolato M, Yu T, Piredda GF, Hilbert T, Radua J, Kober T, Thiran JP

NeuroImage, 244: 118582, September 2021


Multi-echo T2 magnetic resonance images contain information about the distribution of T2 relaxation times of compartmentalized water, from which we can estimate relevant brain tissue properties such as the myelin water fraction (MWF). Regularized non-negative least squares (NNLS) is the tool of choice for estimating non-parametric T2 spectra. However, the estimation is ill-conditioned, sensitive to noise, and highly affected by the employed regularization weight. The purpose of this study is threefold: first, we want to underline that the apparently innocuous use of two alternative parameterizations for solving the inverse problem, which we called the standard and alternative regularization forms, leads to different solutions; second, to assess the performance of both parameterizations; and third, to propose a new Bayesian regularized NNLS method (BayesReg). The performance of BayesReg was compared with that of two conventional approaches (L-curve and Chi-square (X2) fitting) using both regularization forms. We generated a large dataset of synthetic data, acquired in vivo human brain data in healthy participants for conducting a scan-rescan analysis, and correlated the myelin content derived from histology with the MWF estimated from ex vivo data. Results from synthetic data indicate that BayesReg provides accurate MWF estimates, comparable to those from L-curve and X2, and with better overall stability across a wider signal-to-noise range. Notably, we obtained superior results by using the alternative regularization form. The correlations reported in this study are higher than those reported in previous studies employing the same ex vivo and histological data. In human brain data, the estimated maps from L-curve and BayesReg were more reproducible. However, the T2 spectra produced by BayesReg were less affected by over-smoothing than those from L-curve. These findings suggest that BayesReg is a good alternative for estimating T2 distributions and MWF maps.

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