Accelerated, physics-inspired inference of skeletal muscle microstructure from diffusion-weighted MRI

Noel Naughton, Stacey Cahoon, Brad Sutton, John G Georgiadis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Muscle health is a critical component of overall health and quality of life. However, current measures of skeletal muscle health take limited account of microstructural variations within muscle, which play a crucial role in mediating muscle function. To address this, we present a physics-inspired, machine learning-based framework for the non-invasive estimation of microstructural organization in skeletal muscle from diffusion-weighted MRI (dMRI) in an uncertainty-aware manner. To reduce the computational expense associated with direct numerical simulations of dMRI physics, a polynomial meta-model is developed that accurately represents the input/output relationships of a high-fidelity numerical model. This meta-model is used to develop a Gaussian process (GP) model that provides voxel-wise estimates and confidence intervals of microstructure organization in skeletal muscle. Given noise-free data, the GP model accurately estimates microstructural parameters. In the presence of noise, the diameter, intracellular diffusion coefficient, and membrane permeability are accurately estimated with narrow confidence intervals, while volume fraction and extracellular diffusion coefficient are poorly estimated and exhibit wide confidence intervals. A reduced-acquisition GP model, consisting of one-third the diffusion-encoding measurements, is shown to predict parameters with similar accuracy to the original model. The fiber diameter and volume fraction estimated by the reduced GP model is validated via histology, with both parameters accurately estimated, demonstrating the capability of the proposed framework as a promising non-invasive tool for assessing skeletal muscle health and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages1
JournalIEEE transactions on medical imaging
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Diffusion-weighted MRI
  • Extracellular
  • Gaussian process
  • meta-model
  • microstructure
  • Microstructure
  • Muscles
  • Numerical models
  • Organizations
  • Permeability
  • skeletal muscle
  • Tensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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