Strategies for Direct Volume Rendering of Diffusion Tensor Fields

Gordon Kindlmann, David Weinstein, David Hart Scientific Computing and Imaging
Department of Computer Science, University of Utah


Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging is a relatively new modality capable of elucidating the fibrous structure of certain types of tissue, such as the white matter within the brain. Volume rendering is one tool for interpreting this data, because volume rendering permits the visualization of three-dimensional structure without a prior segmentation process. In order to use volume rendering, however, we must develop methods for assigning opacity and color to the data, and create a method to shade the data to improve the legibility of the rendering. Previous work introduced three such methods: barycentric opacity maps, hue-balls (for color), and lit-tensors (for shading). The current paper expands on and generalizes these methods, describing and demonstrating further means of generating opacity, color, and shading from the tensor information. We also propose anisotropic reaction-diffusion volume textures as an additional tool for visualizing the structure of diffusion data. The patterns generated by this process can be visualized on their own, or they can be used to supplement the volume rendering strategies described in the rest of the paper. Finally, because interpolation between data points is a fundamental issue in volume rendering, we conclude with a discussion and evaluation of three distinct interpolation methods suitable for diffusion tensor MRI data.

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Gordon Kindlmann 2001-09-15