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Heim, Susanne; Fahrmeir, Ludwig; Eilers, Paul H. C. and Marx, Brian D. (2005): Space-Varying Coefficient Models for Brain Imaging. Collaborative Research Center 386, Discussion Paper 455 [PDF, 1MB]

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The methodological development and the application in this paper originate from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a powerful nuclear magnetic resonance technique enabling diagnosis and monitoring of several diseases as well as reconstruction of neural pathways. We reformulate the current analysis framework of separate voxelwise regressions as a 3d space-varying coefficient model (VCM) for the entire set of DTI images recorded on a 3d grid of voxels. Hence by allowing to borrow strength from spatially adjacent voxels, to smooth noisy observations, and to estimate diffusion tensors at any location within the brain, the three-step cascade of standard data processing is overcome simultaneously. We conceptualize two VCM variants based on B-spline basis functions: a full tensor product approach and a sequential approximation, rendering the VCM numerically and computationally feasible even for the huge dimension of the joint model in a realistic setup. A simulation study shows that both approaches outperform the standard method of voxelwise regressions with subsequent regularization. Due to major efficacy, we apply the sequential method to a clinical DTI data set and demonstrate the inherent ability of increasing the rigid grid resolution by evaluating the incorporated basis functions at intermediate points. In conclusion, the suggested fitting methods clearly improve the current state-of-the-art, but ameloriation of local adaptivity remains desirable.

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