The effect of filter size on VBM analyses of DT-MRI data

Derek K. Jones, Mark R. Symms, Mara Cercignani, Robert J. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) has been used to analyze diffusion tensor MRI (DT-MRI) data in a number of studies. In VBM, following spatial normalization, data are smoothed to improve the validity of statistical inferences and to reduce inter-individual variation. However, the size of the smoothing filter used for VBM of DT-MRI data is highly variable across studies. For example, a literature review revealed that Gaussian smoothing kernels ranging in size (full width at half maximum) from zero to 16 mm have been used in DT-MRI VBM type studies. To investigate the effect of varying filter size in such analyses, whole brain DT-MRI data from 14 schizophrenic patients were compared with those of 14 matched control subjects using VBM, when the filter size was varied from zero to 16 mm. Within this range of smoothing, four different conclusions regarding apparent patient control differences could be made: (i) no significant patient-control differences; (ii) reduced FA in right superior temporal gyrus (STG) in patients; (iii) reduced FA in both right STG and left cerebellum in patients; and (iv) reduced FA only in left cerebellum in patients. These findings stress the importance of recognizing the effect of the matched filter theorem on VBM analyses of DT-MRI data. Finally, we investigated whether one of the underlying assumptions of parametric VBM, i.e., the normality of the residuals, is met. Our results suggest that, even with moderate smoothing, a large number of voxels within central white matter regions may have non-normally distributed residuals thus making valid statistical inferences with a parametric approach problematic in these areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-554
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • DT-MRI
  • Filter size
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • SPM
  • Voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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