Revisiting the T2 Spectrum Imaging Inverse Problem: Bayesian Regularized Non-Negative Least Squares

Erick Jorge Canales-Rodríguez*, Marco Pizzolato, Thomas Yu, Gian Franco Piredda, Tom Hilbert, Joaquim Radua, Tobias Kober, Jean-Philippe Thiran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Multi-echo T2 magnetic resonance images contain information about the distribution of T2 relaxation times of compartmentalized water, from which we can estimate relevant brain tissue properties such as the myelin water fraction (MWF). Regularized non-negative least squares (NNLS) is the tool of choice for estimating non-parametric T2 spectra. However, the estimation is ill-conditioned, sensitive to noise, and highly affected by the employed regularization weight. The purpose of this study is threefold: first, we want to underline that the apparently innocuous use of two alternative parameterizations for solving the inverse problem, which we called the standard and alternative regularization forms, leads to different solutions; second, to assess the performance of both parameterizations; and third, to propose a new Bayesian regularized NNLS method (BayesReg). The performance of BayesReg was compared with that of two conventional approaches (L-curve and Chi-square (X2) fitting) using both regularization forms. We generated a large dataset of synthetic data, acquired in vivo human brain data in healthy participants for conducting a scan-rescan analysis, and correlated the myelin content derived from histology with the MWF estimated from ex vivo data. Results from synthetic data indicate that BayesReg provides accurate MWF estimates, comparable to those from L-curve and X2, and with better overall stability across a wider signal-to-noise range. Notably, we obtained superior results by using the alternative regularization form. The correlations reported in this study are higher than those reported in previous studies employing the same ex vivo and histological data. In human brain data, the estimated maps from L-curve and BayesReg were more reproducible. However, the T2 spectra produced by BayesReg were less affected by over-smoothing than those from L-curve. These findings suggest that BayesReg is a good alternative for estimating T2 distributions and MWF maps.
Original languageEnglish
Article number118582
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • T2 Relaxation
  • Myelin water fraction
  • Non-negative least squares
  • Bayesian regularization
  • T(2) Relaxation


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