Recommendations and guidelines from the ISMRM Diffusion Study Group for preclinical diffusion MRI: Part 1 – In vivo small-animal imaging
The value of in vivo preclinical diffusion MRI (dMRI) is substantial. Small-animal dMRI has been used for methodological development and validation, characterizing the biological basis of diffusion phenomena, and comparative anatomy. Many of the influential works in this field were first performed in small animals or ex vivo samples. The steps from animal setup and monitoring, to acquisition, analysis, and interpretation are complex, with many decisions that may ultimately affect what questions
... can be answered using the data. This work aims to serve as a reference, presenting selected recommendations and guidelines from the diffusion community, on best practices for preclinical dMRI of in vivo animals. We first describe the value that small animal imaging adds to the field of dMRI, followed by general considerations and foundational knowledge that must be considered when designing experiments. We briefly describe differences in animal species and disease models and discuss why some may be more or less appropriate for different studies. We then give guidelines for in vivo acquisition protocols, including decisions on hardware, animal preparation, and imaging sequences, followed by guidelines for data processing including pre-processing, model-fitting, and tractography. Finally, we provide an online resource which lists publicly available preclinical dMRI datasets and software packages, in order to promote responsible and reproducible research. In each section, we attempt to provide guidelines and recommendations, but also highlight areas for which no guidelines exist (and why), and where future work should focus. An overarching goal herein is to enhance the rigor and reproducibility of small animal dMRI acquisitions and analyses, and thereby advance biomedical knowledge.