Visualizing functional pathways in the human brain using correlation tensors and magnetic resonance imaging

Zhaohua Ding, Ran Xu, Stephen K. Bailey, Tung Lin Wu, Victoria L. Morgan, Laurie E. Cutting, Adam W. Anderson, John C. Gore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Functional magnetic resonance imaging usually detects changes in blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signals from T2*-sensitive acquisitions, and is most effective in detecting activity in brain cortex which is irrigated by rich vasculature to meet high metabolic demands. We recently demonstrated that MRI signals from T2*-sensitive acquisitions in a resting state exhibit structure-specific temporal correlations along white matter tracts. In this report we validate our preliminary findings and introduce spatio-temporal functional correlation tensors to characterize the directional preferences of temporal correlations in MRI signals acquired at rest. The results bear a remarkable similarity to data obtained by diffusion tensor imaging but without any diffusion-encoding gradients. Just as in gray matter, temporal correlations in resting state signals may reflect intrinsic synchronizations of neural activity in white matter. Here we demonstrate that functional correlation tensors are able to visualize long range white matter tracts as well as short range sub-cortical fibers imaged at rest, and that evoked functional activities alter these structures and enhance the visualization of relevant neural circuitry. Furthermore, we explore the biophysical mechanisms underlying these phenomena by comparing pulse sequences, which suggest that white matter signal variations are consistent with hemodynamic (BOLD) changes associated with neural activity. These results suggest new ways to evaluate MRI signal changes within white matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional correlation tensor
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Functional pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Biomedical Engineering


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