Combining thickness information with surface tensor-based morphometry for the 3D statistical analysis of the corpus callosum

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In blindness research, the corpus callosum (CC) is the most frequently studied sub-cortical structure, due to its important involvement in visual processing. While most callosal analyses from brain structural magnetic

In blindness research, the corpus callosum (CC) is the most frequently studied sub-cortical structure, due to its important involvement in visual processing. While most callosal analyses from brain structural magnetic resonance images (MRI) are limited to the 2D mid-sagittal slice, we propose a novel framework to capture a complete set of 3D morphological differences in the corpus callosum between two groups of subjects. The CCs are segmented from whole brain T1-weighted MRI and modeled as 3D tetrahedral meshes. The callosal surface is divided into superior and inferior patches on which we compute a volumetric harmonic field by solving the Laplace's equation with Dirichlet boundary conditions. We adopt a refined tetrahedral mesh to compute the Laplacian operator, so our computation can achieve sub-voxel accuracy. Thickness is estimated by tracing the streamlines in the harmonic field. We combine areal changes found using surface tensor-based morphometry and thickness information into a vector at each vertex to be used as a metric for the statistical analysis. Group differences are assessed on this combined measure through Hotelling's T2 test. The method is applied to statistically compare three groups consisting of: congenitally blind (CB), late blind (LB; onset > 8 years old) and sighted (SC) subjects. Our results reveal significant differences in several regions of the CC between both blind groups and the sighted groups; and to a lesser extent between the LB and CB groups. These results demonstrate the crucial role of visual deprivation during the developmental period in reshaping the structural architecture of the CC.