Selecting software pipelines for change in flortaucipir SUVR: Balancing repeatability and group separation

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Since tau PET tracers were introduced, investigators have quantified them using a wide variety of automated methods. As longitudinal cohort studies acquire second and third time points of serial within-person tau PET data, determining the best pipeline to measure change has become crucial. We compared a total of 415 different quantification methods (each a combination of multiple options) according to their effects on a) differences in annual SUVR change between clinical groups, and b) longitudinal measurement repeatability as measured by the error term from a linear mixed-effects model. Our comparisons used MRI and Flortaucipir scans of 97 Mayo Clinic study participants who clinically either: a) were cognitively unimpaired, or b) had cognitive impairments that were consistent with Alzheimer's disease pathology. Tested methods included cross-sectional and longitudinal variants of two overarching pipelines (FreeSurfer 6.0, and an in-house pipeline based on SPM12), three choices of target region (entorhinal, inferior temporal, and a temporal lobe meta-ROI), five types of partial volume correction (PVC) (none, two-compartment, three-compartment, geometric transfer matrix (GTM), and a tau-specific GTM variant), seven choices of reference region (cerebellar crus, cerebellar gray matter, whole cerebellum, pons, supratentorial white matter, eroded supratentorial WM, and a composite of eroded supratentorial WM, pons, and whole cerebellum), two choices of region masking (GM or GM and WM), and two choices of statistic (voxel-wise mean vs. median). Our strongest findings were: 1) larger temporal-lobe target regions greatly outperformed entorhinal cortex (median sample size estimates based on a hypothetical clinical trial were 520–526 vs. 1740); 2) longitudinal processing pipelines outperformed cross-sectional pipelines (median sample size estimates were 483 vs. 572); and 3) reference regions including supratentorial WM outperformed traditional cerebellar and pontine options (median sample size estimates were 370 vs. 559). Altogether, our results favored longitudinally SUVR methods and a temporal-lobe meta-ROI that includes adjacent (juxtacortical) WM, a composite reference region (eroded supratentorial WM + pons + whole cerebellum), 2-class voxel-based PVC, and median statistics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118259
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • AV-1451
  • Bias correction
  • Change over time
  • Flortaucipir
  • GTM
  • Geometric transfer matrix
  • Inhomogeneity correction
  • PVC
  • Partial volume correction
  • Precision
  • RSF
  • Reference region
  • Region spread function
  • SUVR
  • Tau PET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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