INTRODUCTION: Q-ball imaging (QBI) is one of the typical data models for quantifying white matter (WM) anisotropy in diffusion-weighted MRI (DwMRI) studies. Brain and spinal investigation by high angular resolution DwMRI (high angular resolution imaging (HARDI)) protocols exhibits higher angular resolution in diffusion imaging compared to low angular resolution models, although with longer acquisition times. We aimed to assess the difference between QBI-derived anisotropy values from high and low angular resolution DwMRI protocols and their potential advantages or shortcomings in neuroradiology. METHODS: Brain DwMRI data sets were acquired in seven healthy volunteers using both HARDI (b = 3000 s/mm2, 54 gradient directions) and low angular resolution (b = 1000 s/mm2, 32 gradient directions) acquisition schemes. For both sequences, tract of interest tractography and generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA) measures were extracted by using QBI model and were compared between the two data sets. RESULTS: QBI tractography and voxel-wise analyses showed that some WM tracts, such as corpus callosum, inferior longitudinal, and uncinate fasciculi, were reconstructed as one-dominant-direction fiber bundles with both acquisition schemes. In these WM tracts, mean percent different difference in GFA between the two data sets was less than 5 %. Contrariwise, multidirectional fiber bundles, such as corticospinal tract and superior longitudinal fasciculus, were more accurately depicted by HARDI acquisition scheme. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the design of optimal DwMRI acquisition protocols for clinical investigation of WM anisotropy by QBI models should consider the specific brain target regions to be explored, inducing researchers to a trade-off choice between angular resolution and acquisition time.
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