Diffusion MRI analysis with QIT
This page provides a tutorial for diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with QIT. You’ll learn how to install QIT, download sample data, estimate and visualize DTI data, and perform manual seed-based tractography.
Before starting the tutorial, you’ll need a few things. First, we will make sure you have the necessary dependencies; then, we will download and install QIT; finally, we will download the sample data.
First, make sure you’ve installed QIT and its dependencies by following the [[Installation]] instructions. You won’t need the advanced dependencies for this tutorial, so you can skip that.
Downloading the sample dataset
Next, we’ll download the sample dataset, which is available here:
After you decompress the archive, you should find these files inside:
input/dwi.nii.gz: a diffusion weighted MR image volume
input/mask.nii.gz: a brain mask
input/bvecs.txt: a b-vectors file
input/bvals.txt: a b-values file
There are other files in the archive, but the ones above are strictly required for the tutorial. This dataset represents a basic 60 direction single shell diffusion MRI scan acquired on a 1.5T scanner. The dataset is described in more detail here
Now that we have installed QIT and downloaded the sample data, we’ll go over how to do a basic DTI analysis.
First, we’ll start
qitview. You can do this by running
qitview.pyby either double clicking in your file explorer or executing them on the command line . Once you’ve started the program, you should see console messages about the progress and a window that looks like the image below. There are three sections to the viewer:
- Data Stage: the panel on the left, where data is visualized
- Data Workspace: the panel on the top right, where a list of loaded data is shown
- Data Controls: the panel on the bottom right, where you control how the selected data is visualized
Next, we’ll open the file loader. You can find the file loader by clicking the File menu and then clicking “Load Files…”:
Load tutorial data
Next, we’ll load the sample data for the tutorial. The file loader lets you open a list of files in batch mode. You can add files to the list by clicking the Add more files button and selecting the file in the file chooser. Each entry in the list displays the file type and file name. The file type is automatically detected in this data, so you don’t need to change the file type (but be careful about the datatype using QIT later on). You should add these files to the list:
After that, you can load the files by clicking Load files into workspace:
View the data
Next, we’ll visualize the volumetric data. First, you should select
dwi.nii.gz and click the box next to it. You can change the view by clicking on the data stage and dragging the mouse. Then, you should open the Slice Rendering panel and uncheck the boxes next to Slice I and Slice J. Now, only an axial slice should be visible.
Opening a Module
Next, we’ll do some data processing. QIT has many modules that each implement a different algorithm. We’ll start by fitting diffusion tensors to the tutorial dataset. You can open the VolumeTensorFit module by opening this menu:
Now, you should see a window for the VolumeTensorFit module. This provides a way to specify the input data, parameter settings, and the destination for the output. You should make sure the input is set to
dwi.nii.gz and gradients is set to
bvecs.txt. Then, you should open the Optional Input panel and set mask to
mask.nii.gz. Then, you should select the Apply button. The module will then ask for a name for the output, which you can set to
Now, you should have
models.dti in your workspace. Next, we’ll create create a glyph visualization. You should first select
models.dti, click the box next to it, and expand the Glyph Rendering panel. Then click the Visible checkbox and select TensorEllipsoid from the dropdown menu:
Tensor Ellipsoid Glyphs
Now, you should see ellipsoid glyphs representing the DTI volume:
Extract a tensor model feature
Next, we’ll extract a scalar feature from the DTI volume. For this, you should open the VolumeModelFeature module, set the input to
models.dti, ensure feature is set to
FA, and select Apply. It will ask for a name for the output, which you can set to
Visualize fractional anisotropy
Now, we’ll visualize the fractional anisotropy image. You should first select
fa in the workspace and check the box next to it. Then you should open the Slice Rendering panel and change the colormap to scalar2. You have to do this because scalar1 is being used for
dwi.nii.gz and they have different intensity ranges.
Create a mask
Next, we’ll create a mask for seed-based tractography. You should Right-Click (or Control+Click) the
fa volume and select Create Mask from the contextual menu. You will be asked for a name for the new mask, which you can set to
seed. This mask will be used for initiating tractography. In the next section, we’ll draw a region in the mask.
Draw a mask
Next, we’re going to draw a region in the mask. First, you should select the mask
seed, make sure the box next to it is checked, and then open the Drawing panel. You can change the drawing mode and characteristics of the stencil with this panel, but for now, you can leave the settings as they are. Now, you can draw on the mask by dragging the mouse over the image while holding down Alt+Control (or Option+Control on macOS). If you hover the mouse while holding Alt+Control, it will show you a drawing stencil, and clicking will stamp the highlighted voxels. You can draw a region like the one shown below. If you make a mistake, you can hold down Shift+Alt+Control to erase instead.
Next, we’ll create a tractography model using the seed mask. First, you should open the VolumeModelTrackStreamline module, as shown below. You should set the input to
models.dti, open the Optional Input panel, and set seedMask to
seed. In the next section, we’ll update some more parameters.
We’ll set a couple more parameters. First, close the Optional Input panel and open the Parameters panel. Then, you can set samples to
5, which will specify that five seeds per voxel should be used. Then, you can set and min to
0.15, which will specify that tracking should only proceed when fractional anisotropy is above 0.15. Then, you can select “Apply” to create the tracks. It will ask for a name for the output, which you can set to
Now, we have tractography curves. You can show the results by selecting
tracks and checking the box next to it. These are 3D curves, so you can rotate the camera to see their shape. You can also open the Rendering panel to change how the curves are visualized.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your first analysis of diffusion MRI data. Feel free to experiment with other modules and settings in
qitview or ask around if you’d like to know more about what else you can do.