Assessing white matter microstructure of the newborn with multi-shell diffusion MRI and biophysical compartment models

Nicolas Kunz, Hui Zhang, Lana Vasung, Kieran R. O'Brien, Yaniv Assaf, François Lazeyras, Daniel C. Alexander, Petra S. Hüppi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain white matter connections have become a focus of major interest with important maturational processes occurring in newborns. To study the complex microstructural developmental changes in-vivo, it is imperative that non-invasive neuroimaging approaches are developed for this age-group. Multi-b-value diffusion weighted imaging data were acquired in 13 newborns, and the biophysical compartment diffusion models CHARMED-light and NODDI, providing new microstructural parameters such as intra-neurite volume fraction (ν. in) and neurite orientation dispersion index (ODI), were developed for newborn data. Comparative analysis was performed and twenty ROIs in the white matter were investigated. Diffusion tensor imaging and both biophysical compartment models highlighted the compact and oriented structure of the corpus-callosum with the highest FA and ν. in values and the smallest ODI values. We could clearly differentiate, using the FA, ν. in and ODI, the posterior and anterior internal capsule representing similar cellular structure but with different maturation (i.e. partially myelinated and absence of myelin, respectively). Late maturing regions (external capsule and periventricular crossroads of pathways) had lower ν. in values, but displayed significant differences in ODI. The compartmented models CHARMED-light and NODDI bring new indices corroborating the cellular architectures, with the lowest ν. in, reflecting the late maturation of areas with thin non-myelinated fibers, and with highest ODI indicating the presence of fiber crossings and fanning.The application of biophysical compartment diffusion models adds new insights to the brain white matter development in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-299
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • Corpus callosum
  • DTI
  • Internal capsule
  • Intra-axonal space
  • Intra-neurite space
  • MRI
  • Maturation
  • Microstructure
  • Myelin
  • Newborn
  • Periventricular crossroads of pathways
  • White matter


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