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Neuroimage. 1999 Apr;9(4):393-406.

Measuring in vivo myelination of human white matter fiber tracts with magnetization transfer MR.

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Department of Neurology, Department of Radiology, C. & O. Vogt Institute for Brain Research and Institute of Neuroanatomy, Heinrich-Heine University, D-40225, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Precise characterization of white matter pathways is important for the understanding of structural-functional relationships in the human brain. While it is known from postmortem studies that the connectivity of cortical areas is conveyed by projection, commissural, and association fibers, most clinical studies disregard useful information about specific fiber tracts. Magnetization transfer (MT) MR detects the relative proportion of free mobile protons and immobile protons bound to macromolecules. MT values correlate with histopathology and it has been proposed that in the white matter, the amount of magnetization transfer correlates with the degree of myelination. Thus, MT-MR provides measures that may reflect more accurately the physiology and natural course of diseases involving the white matter. We applied this quantitative in vivo method to five children at different ages to determine whether the maturational changes of distinct fiber tracts could be measured. All regions of interest were localized by means of Brodmann's original descriptions and the additional use of reconstructed 3D-matched data from 10 myelin-stained human brain specimens. With this atlas-guided approach we localized and measured 26 supratentorial white matter fiber tracts in each hemisphere, connecting to primary as well as association cortices. All fiber tracts showed consistent age-related MT changes and the strongest effects were found in those tracts projecting to the primary cortical areas. These results suggest that our method is suitable for in vivo MT measurements in specific fiber tracts. It can provide data that relate to myelination during ontogenesis or myelination delays in myelin disorders. In the clinical domain, the focus on specific fiber tracts appears to be advantageous over standard approaches, because such system of parcellation is based on the functional anatomy of the white matter. Consequently, it may be especially useful for topical analysis in neurology allowing the assessment of the functional consequences of white matter damage as well as the effectiveness of treatments in patients with any lesion that can be visualized by MRI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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