Half way there: Theoretical considerations for power laws and sticks in diffusion mri for tissue microstructure

Matt G. Hall*, Carson Ingo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we consider how differing approaches that characterize biological microstructure with diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging intersect. Without geometrical boundary assumptions, there are techniques that make use of power law behavior which can be derived from a generalized diffusion equation or intuited heuristically as a time dependent diffusion process. Alternatively, by treating biological microstructure (e.g., myelinated axons) as an amalgam of stick-like geometrical entities, there are approaches that can be derived utilizing convolution-based methods, such as the spherical means technique. Since data acquisition requires that multiple diffusion weighting sensitization conditions or b-values are sampled, this suggests that implicit mutual information may be contained within each technique. The information intersection becomes most apparent when the power law exponent approaches a value of12, whereby the functional form of the power law converges with the explicit stick-like geometric structure by way of confluent hypergeometric functions. While a value of12 is useful for the case of solely impermeable fibers, values that diverge from12 may also reveal deep connections between approaches, and potentially provide insight into the presence of compartmentation, exchange, and permeability within heterogeneous biological microstructures. All together, these disparate approaches provide a unique opportunity to more completely characterize the biological origins of observed changes to the diffusion attenuated signal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1871
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2021


  • Anomalous diffusion
  • Biological microstructure
  • Diffusion MRI
  • Fractional calculus
  • Kurtosis
  • Multi-shell diffusion MRI
  • Power law
  • Spherical deconvolution
  • Spherical means
  • Time dependent diffusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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