Cortical reconstruction and volumetric segmentation was performed with the Freesurfer image analysis suite, which is documented and freely available for download online (http://surfer.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/). The technical details of these procedures are described in prior publications (Dale et al., 1999; Dale and Sereno, 1993; Fischl and Dale, 2000; Fischl et al., 2001; Fischl et al., 2002; Fischl et al., 2004a; Fischl et al., 1999a; Fischl et al., 1999b; Fischl et al., 2004b; Han et al., 2006; Jovicich et al., 2006; Segonne et al., 2004). Briefly, this processing includes motion correction and averaging (Reuter et al. 2010) of multiple volumetric T1 weighted images (when more than one is available), removal of non-brain tissue using a hybrid watershed/surface deformation procedure (Segonne et al., 2004), automated Talairach transformation, segmentation of the subcortical white matter and deep gray matter volumetric structures (including hippocampus, amygdala, caudate, putamen, ventricles) (Fischl et al., 2002; Fischl et al., 2004a) intensity normalization (Sled et al., 1998), tessellation of the gray matter white matter boundary, automated topology correction (Fischl et al., 2001; Segonne et al., 2007), and surface deformation following intensity gradients to optimally place the gray/white and gray/cerebrospinal fluid borders at the location where the greatest shift in intensity defines the transition to the other tissue class (Dale et al., 1999; Dale and Sereno, 1993; Fischl and Dale, 2000). Once the cortical models are complete, a number of deformable procedures can be performed for in further data processing and analysis including surface inflation (Fischl et al., 1999a), registration to a spherical atlas which utilized individual cortical folding patterns to match cortical geometry across subjects (Fischl et al., 1999b), parcellation of the cerebral cortex into units based on gyral and sulcal structure (Desikan et al., 2006; Fischl et al., 2004b), and creation of a variety of surface based data including maps of curvature and sulcal depth. This method uses both intensity and continuity information from the entire three dimensional MR volume in segmentation and deformation procedures to produce representations of cortical thickness, calculated as the closest distance from the gray/white boundary to the gray/CSF boundary at each vertex on the tessellated surface (Fischl and Dale, 2000). The maps are created using spatial intensity gradients across tissue classes and are therefore not simply reliant on absolute signal intensity. The maps produced are not restricted to the voxel resolution of the original data thus are capable of detecting submillimeter differences between groups. Procedures for the measurement of cortical thickness have been validated against histological analysis (Rosas et al., 2002) and manual measurements (Kuperberg et al., 2003; Salat et al., 2004). Freesurfer morphometric procedures have been demonstrated to show good test-retest reliability across scanner manufacturers and across field strengths (Han et al., 2006).
Longitudinal processing has been performed with the longitudinal stream in Freesurfer, where an unbiased within-subject template space and average image (Reuter and Fischl, 2011) is created using robust, inverse consistent registration (Reuter et al., 2010). Information from this subject template is used to initialize the longitudinal image processing in several locations to increase repeatability and statistical power.
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Reuter, M., Fischl, B., 2011. Avoiding asymmetry-induced bias in longitudinal image processing. Neuroimage, accepted Feb. 2011. http://reuter.mit.edu/papers/reuter-bias11.pdf
Reuter, M., Rosas, H.D., Fischl, B., 2010. Highly Accurate Inverse Consistent Registration: A Robust Approach. Neuroimage 53 (4), 1181–1196. http://reuter.mit.edu/papers/reuter-robreg10.pdf
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This list of citations is available in the attached BibTeX file neuro.bib