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Insight from uncertainty: bootstrap-derived diffusion metrics differentially predict memory function among older adults


Diffusion tensor imaging suffers from an intrinsic low signal-to-noise ratio. Bootstrap algorithms have been introduced to provide a non-parametric method to estimate the uncertainty of the measured diffusion parameters. To quantify the variability of the principal diffusion direction, bootstrap-derived metrics such as the cone of uncertainty have been proposed. However, bootstrap-derived metrics are not independent of the underlying diffusion profile. A higher mean diffusivity causes a smaller signal-to-noise ratio and, thus, increases the measurement uncertainty. Moreover, the goodness of the tensor model, which relies strongly on the complexity of the underlying diffusion profile, influences bootstrap-derived metrics as well. The presented simulations clearly depict the cone of uncertainty as a function of the underlying diffusion profile. Since the relationship of the cone of uncertainty and common diffusion parameters, such as the mean diffusivity and the fractional anisotropy, is not linear, the cone of uncertainty has a different sensitivity. In vivo analysis of the fornix reveals the cone of uncertainty to be a predictor of memory function among older adults. No significant correlation occurs with the common diffusion parameters. The present work not only demonstrates the cone of uncertainty as a function of the actual diffusion profile, but also discloses the cone of uncertainty as a sensitive predictor of memory function. Future studies should incorporate bootstrap-derived metrics to provide more comprehensive analysis.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AG034189 and AG037212) and from the Swiss National Science Foundation (P2EZP3_148738).

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Correspondence to Adam M. Brickman.

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Vorburger, R.S., Habeck, C.G., Narkhede, A. et al. Insight from uncertainty: bootstrap-derived diffusion metrics differentially predict memory function among older adults. Brain Struct Funct 221, 507–514 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-014-0922-6

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  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Bootstrap methods
  • Cone of uncertainty
  • White matter
  • Memory function