Motion correction of chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI series using robust principal component analysis (RPCA) and PCA

Chongxue Bie, Yuhua Liang, Lihong Zhang, Yingcheng Zhao, Yanrong Chen, Xueru Zhang, Xiaowei He, Xiaolei Song


Background: Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) MRI requires the acquisition of multiple saturation-weighted images and can last several minutes. Misalignments among these images, which are often due to the inevitable motion of the subject, will corrupt CEST contrast maps and result in large quantification errors. Therefore, the registration of the CEST series is critical. However, registration is challenging since common intensity-based registration algorithms may fail to differentiate CEST signals from motion artifacts. Herein, we studied how different patterns of motion affect CEST quantification and proposed a cascaded two-step registration scheme by utilizing features extracted from the entire Z-spectral image series instead of direct registration to a single image.
Methods: The proposed approach is conducted in two stages: during the first coarse registration, the Z-spectral image series is decomposed by robust principal component analysis (RPCA) to separate CEST contrast from motion. The recomposed image series using only the low-rank component, which contains minimized motion, are averaged to generate a reference for the alignment of the image series. To further remove residual misalignments, the coarse registration is followed by a refinement stage, which uses PCA iteratively to generate motionless synthetic reference series with the first few principal components (PCs) that correspond to CEST contrast. In the end, the quality check is performed to exclude the images with unsuccessful registration.
Results: The proposed registration scheme (RPCA + PCA_R) was assessed by both phantom experiments and in vivo data of tumor-bearing mouse brain, with simulated random rigid motion in different patterns applied to the acquired static Z-spectral image series. For comparison, previous correction schemes using an explicit image [either S0 or Ssat(∆ω)] as registration reference were also performed, named as S0_R and Ssat_R respectively. To illustrate the advantage of combination of RPCA and PCA, registration was also exploited using either only the RPCA-based method (RPCA_R) or only the PCA-based one (PCA_R). Compared with the above four methods, RPCA + PCA_R allowed for more accurate correction of the corrupted Z-spectral images, exhibiting smaller MTRasym(∆ω) error maps and lower residual Z-spectra referring to the static data. Among all the five correction methods, the corrected Z-spectral image series by RPCA + PCA_R and the resulting MTRasym(∆ω) maps achieved the highest correlation coefficients (CC) with respect to the static ones.
Conclusions: The registration scheme of RPCA + PCA_R provides robust motion correction between two specific Z-spectral images and among an entire image series, through extraction of the static component from the entire Z-spectra set and inclusion of a PCA-based refinement step. Therefore, this method can help improve CEST acquisition and quantification.