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Cortical thickness estimation performed in-vivo via magnetic resonance imaging is an important technique for the diagnosis and understanding of the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Currently, two different computational paradigms exist, with methods generally classified as either surface or voxel-based. This paper provides a much needed comparison of the surface-based method FreeSurfer and two voxel-based methods using clinical data. We test the effects of computing regional statistics using two different atlases and demonstrate that this makes a significant difference to the cortical thickness results. We assess reproducibility, and show that FreeSurfer has a regional standard deviation of thickness difference on same day scans that is significantly lower than either a Laplacian or Registration based method and discuss the trade off between reproducibility and segmentation accuracy caused by bending energy constraints. We demonstrate that voxel-based methods can detect similar patterns of group-wise differences as well as FreeSurfer in typical applications such as producing group-wise maps of statistically significant thickness change, but that regional statistics can vary between methods. We use a Support Vector Machine to classify patients against controls and did not find statistically significantly different results with voxel based methods compared to FreeSurfer. Finally we assessed longitudinal performance and concluded that currently FreeSurfer provides the most plausible measure of change over time, with further work required for voxel based methods.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





856 - 865


Aged, Alzheimer Disease, Brain, Brain Mapping, Female, Frontotemporal Dementia, Humans, Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Reproducibility of Results