False discovery rate analysis of brain diffusion direction maps. (English) Zbl 1137.62033

Summary: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a novel modality of magnetic resonance imaging that allows noninvasive mapping of the brain’s white matter. A particular map derived from DTI measurements is a map of water principal diffusion directions, which are proxies for neural fiber directions. We consider a study in which diffusion direction maps were acquired for two groups of subjects. The objective of the analysis is to find regions of the brain in which the corresponding diffusion directions differ between the groups. This is attained by first computing a test statistic for the difference in the direction at every brain location using a G. S. Watson model [Equatorial distribution on a sphere. Biometrika 52, 193–201 (1965)] for directional data. Interesting locations are subsequently selected with control of the false discovery rate. More accurate modeling of the null distribution is obtained using an empirical null density based on the empirical distribution of the test statistics across the brain. Further, substantial improvements in power are achieved by local spatial averaging of the test statistic map. Although the focus is on one particular study and imaging technology, the proposed inference methods can be applied to other large scale simultaneous hypothesis testing problems with a continuous underlying spatial structure.


62H11 Directional data; spatial statistics
92C55 Biomedical imaging and signal processing
62H35 Image analysis in multivariate analysis
62P10 Applications of statistics to biology and medical sciences; meta analysis
92C20 Neural biology
62G30 Order statistics; empirical distribution functions
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