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Optimization of preprocessing strategies in Positron Emission Tomography (PET) neuroimaging: A [11C]DASB PET study

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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is an important neuroimaging tool to quantify the distribution of specific molecules in the brain. The quantification is based on a series of individually designed data preprocessing steps (pipeline) and an optimal preprocessing strategy is per definition associated with less noise and improved statistical power, potentially allowing for more valid neurobiological interpretations. In spite of this, it is currently unclear how to design the best preprocessing pipeline and to what extent the choice of each preprocessing step in the pipeline minimizes subject-specific errors. To evaluate the impact of various preprocessing strategies, we systematically examined 384 different pipeline strategies in data from 30 healthy participants scanned twice with the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) radioligand [11C]DASB. Five commonly used preprocessing steps with two to four options were investigated: (1) motion correction (MC) (2) co-registration (3) delineation of volumes of interest (VOI's) (4) partial volume correction (PVC), and (5) kinetic modeling. To quantitatively compare and evaluate the impact of various preprocessing strategies, we used the performance metrics: test-retest bias, within- and between-subject variability, the intraclass-correlation coefficient, and global signal-to-noise ratio. We also performed a power analysis to estimate the required sample size to detect either a 5% or 10% difference in 5-HTT binding as a function of preprocessing pipeline. The results showed a complex downstream dependency between the various preprocessing steps on the performance metrics. The choice of MC had the most profound effect on 5-HTT binding, prior to the effects caused by PVC and kinetic modeling, and the effects differed across VOI's. Notably, we observed a negative bias in 5-HTT binding across test and retest in 98% of pipelines, ranging from 0 to 6% depending on the pipeline. Optimization of the performance metrics revealed a trade-off in within- and between-subject variability at the group-level with opposite effects (i.e. minimization of within-subject variability increased between-subject variability and vice versa). The sample size required to detect a given effect size was also compromised by the preprocessing strategy, resulting in up to 80% increases in sample size needed to detect a 5% difference in 5-HTT binding. This is the first study to systematically investigate and demonstrate the effect of choosing different preprocessing strategies on the outcome of dynamic PET studies. We provide a framework to show how optimal and maximally powered neuroimaging results can be obtained by choosing appropriate preprocessing strategies and we provide recommendations depending on the study design. In addition, the results contribute to a better understanding of methodological uncertainty and variability in preprocessing decisions for future group- and/or longitudinal PET studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuroImage
Volume199
Pages (from-to)466-479
Number of pages14
ISSN1053-8119
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

ID: 57817980