Reproducibility of structural and diffusion tensor imaging in the TACERN multi-center study

Anna K. Prohl, Benoit Scherrer, Xavier Tomas-Fernandez, Rajna Filip-Dhima, Kush Kapur, Clemente Velasco-Annis, Sean Clancy, Erin Carmody, Meghan Dean, Molly Valle, Sanjay P. Prabhu, Jurriaan M. Peters, E. Martina Bebin, Darcy A. Krueger, Hope Northrup, Joyce Y. Wu, Mustafa Sahin, Simon K. Warfield*, TACERN Study Group the TACERN Study Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Multi-site MRI studies are often necessary for recruiting sufficiently sized samples when studying rare conditions. However, they require pooling data from multiple scanners into a single data set, and therefore it is critical to evaluate the variability of quantitative MRI measures within and across scanners used in multi-site studies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the reproducibility of structural and diffusion weighted (DW) MRI measurements acquired on seven scanners at five medical centers as part of the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Autism Center of Excellence Research Network (TACERN) multisite study. Methods: The American College of Radiology (ACR) phantom was imaged monthly to measure reproducibility of signal intensity and uniformity within and across seven 3T scanners from General Electric, Philips, and Siemens vendors. One healthy adult male volunteer was imaged repeatedly on all seven scanners under the TACERN structural and DW protocol (5 b = 0 s/mm2 and 30 b = 1000 s/mm2) over a period of 5 years (age 22–27 years). Reproducibility of inter- and intra-scanner brain segmentation volumes and diffusion tensor imaging metrics fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) within white matter regions was quantified with coefficient of variation. Results: The American College of Radiology Phantom signal intensity and uniformity were similar across scanners and changed little over time, with a mean intra-scanner coefficient of variation of 3.6 and 1.8%, respectively. The mean inter- and intra-scanner coefficients of variation of brain structure volumes derived from T1-weighted (T1w) images of the human phantom were 3.3 and 1.1%, respectively. The mean inter- and intra-scanner coefficients of variation of FA in white matter regions were 4.5 and 2.5%, while the mean inter- and intra-scanner coefficients of variation of MD in white matter regions were 5.4 and 1.5%. Conclusion: Our results suggest that volumetric and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurements are highly reproducible between and within scanners and provide typical variation amplitudes that can be used as references to interpret future findings in the TACERN network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalFrontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 5 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • ACR
  • Brain
  • MRI
  • Multicenter study
  • Phantom
  • Quality assurance
  • Reproducibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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