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MAGMA. 2008 Mar;21(1-2):131-47. doi: 10.1007/s10334-008-0107-5. Epub 2008 Mar 13.

Magnetic field dependence of the distribution of NMR relaxation times in the living human brain.

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Institute of Medicine, MR Group, Research Centre Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany.



This study investigates the field dependence of the distribution of in vivo, whole-brain T1 values, and its usefulness for white matter/grey matter segmentation. Results on T1 values are presented on 12 healthy volunteers. T2 and T2* distributions and their field dependence have been measured on the same cohort of volunteers. In this paper, however, only the T2 and T2* results on a single volunteer are presented. The reported field dependence of T2 and T2* values should, therefore, be given less weight than that of T1 times.


Relaxation times were measured in vivo on 12 healthy volunteers, using three nearly identical whole-body scanners, operating at field strengths of 1.5, 3, and 4 T and employing nearly identical software platforms and very similar hardware. T1 mapping was performed using TAPIR, a sequence based on the Look-Locker method. T2* mapping was performed with a multi-slice, multi-echo, gradient echo sequence. A multi-slice, multi-echo T2 mapping sequence based on the Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) method was used to map T2. For each volunteer, the global distribution of T1 relaxation times was described as the superposition of three Gaussian distributions. The field and age-dependence of the centroids and widths of the three Gaussians was investigated. The segmentation of the brain in white and grey matter was performed separately for each field strength. Using the T1 segmentation and the fact that all maps were coregistered, we investigated the distribution of T2 and T*(2) values separately for the white and grey matter and described them with a Gaussian distribution in each case.


Multi-slice quantitative maps were produced for the relaxation parameters T1 (near whole-brain coverage with 41 slices), T2* (whole-brain coverage, 55 slices), and T2 (27 slices). A clear age dependence was identified for grey matter T1 values and correlated with similar behaviour observed in a separate study of the brain water content. The increase with field strength of the bulk white and grey matter T1 values was well reproduced by both Bottomley's [1] and Fischer's [2] formulae, with parameters taken from the literature. The separation between the centroids was, however, either overestimated or underestimated by the two formulae. The width of the T1 distributions was found to increase with increasing field.


The study of the field dependence of the NMR relaxation times is expected to allow for better differentiation between regions which are structurally different, provide a better insight into the microscopic structure of the brain and the molecular substrate of its function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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