DeFeo 2019One of the most common tasks in small rodents MRI pipelines is the voxel-wise segmentation of the volume in multiple classes. While many segmentation schemes have been developed for the human brain, fewer are available for rodent MRI, often by adaptation from human neuroimaging. Common methods include atlas-based and clustering schemes. The former labels the target volume by registering one or more pre-labeled atlases using a deformable registration method, in which case the result depends on the quality of the reference volumes, the registration algorithm and the label fusion approach, if more than one atlas is employed. The latter is based on an expectation maximization procedure to maximize the variance between voxel categories, and is often combined with Markov Random Fields and the atlas based approach to include spatial information, priors, and improve the classification accuracy. Our primary goal is to critically review the state of the art of rat and mouse segmentation of neuro MRI volumes and compare the available literature on popular, readily and freely available MRI toolsets, including SPM, FSL and ANTs, when applied to this task in the context of common pre-processing steps. Furthermore, we will briefly address the emerging Deep Learning methods for the segmentation of medical imaging, and the perspectives for applications to small rodents..

Tommasin 2018Brain activity at rest is characterized by widely distributed and spatially specific patterns of synchronized low-frequency blood-oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) fluctuations, which correspond to physiologically relevant brain networks. This network behaviour is known to persist also during task execution, yet the details underlying task-associated modulations of within- and between-network connectivity are largely unknown.

In this study we exploited a multi-parametric and multi-scale approach to investigate how low-frequency fluctuations adapt to a sustained n-back working memory task. We found that the transition from the resting state to the task state involves a behaviourally relevant and scale-invariant modulation of synchronization patterns within both task-positive and default mode networks. Specifically, decreases of connectivity within networks are accompanied by increases of connectivity between networks. In spite of large and widespread changes of connectivity strength, the overall topology of brain networks is remarkably preserved. We show that these findings are strongly influenced by connectivity at rest, suggesting that the absolute change of connectivity (i.e., disregarding the baseline) may not be the most suitable metric to study dynamic modulations of functional connectivity. Our results indicate that a task can evoke scale-invariant, distributed changes of BOLD fluctuations, further confirming that low frequency BOLD oscillations show a specialized response and are tightly bound to task-evoked activation.