Construction of brain structural connectivity network using a novel integrated algorithm based on ensemble average propagator

Zhanxiong Wu, Yun Peng, Dong Xu, Ming Hong, Yingchun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


An important task for neuroscience is to accurately construct structural connectivity network of human brain. Tractography constructed based on high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) provides valuable information of human brain structural connections. Existing algorithms, mainly categorized as deterministic or probabilistic, come with inherent limitations (e.g., fiber direction uncertainty induced by noise, or anatomically unreasonable connections and heavy computational cost). In this study, a novel integrated algorithm was proposed to construct brain structural connectivity network by incorporating the deterministic path planning and probabilistic connection strength estimation, based on ensemble average propagator (EAP). We first estimated EAPs from multi-shell samples using the spherical polar Fourier imaging (SPFI), and then extracted diffusion orientations coinciding with neural fiber tracts. Only under angular constraints, the deterministic path planning algorithm was subsequently used to find all reasonable pathways between pairwise white matter (WM) voxels in different regions of interest (ROIs). Consequently, a train of consecutive WM voxels along each of the identified pathways was determined, and the connection strength of these pathways was computed by integrating their EAP alignment over a solid angle. The connection strength of a pair of WM voxels was assigned as the connection strength with the largest connection possibility. Finally, the connection strength between two ROIs was calculated as the sum of all the connection probabilities of each pair of WM voxels in the ROIs. A comparison against voxel-graph based probabilistic tractography method was performed on Fibercup phantom dataset, and the results demonstrated that the proposed method can produce better structural connection and is more computationally economical. Lastly, three datasets from Human Connectome Project (HCP) S1200 group were tested and their structural connectivity networks were constructed for topological analysis. The results showed great consistency in network metrics with previous WM network studies in healthy adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103384
JournalComputers in Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Diffusion weighted imaging
  • Ensemble average propagator
  • High angular resolution diffusion imaging
  • Spherical polar fourier imaging
  • Structural connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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