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Neuroimage. 2012 Sep;62(3):2140-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.05.068. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Parallel-transmission-enabled magnetization-prepared rapid gradient-echo T1-weighted imaging of the human brain at 7 T.

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CEA, DSV, I2BM, NeuroSpin, LRMN, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


One of the promises of Ultra High Field (UHF) MRI scanners is to bring finer spatial resolution in the human brain images due to an increased signal to noise ratio. However, at such field strengths, the spatial non-uniformity of the Radio Frequency (RF) transmit profiles challenges the applicability of most MRI sequences, where the signal and contrast levels strongly depend on the flip angle (FA) homogeneity. In particular, the MP-RAGE sequence, one of the most commonly employed 3D sequences to obtain T1-weighted anatomical images of the brain, is highly sensitive to these spatial variations. These cause deterioration in image quality and complicate subsequent image post-processing such as automated tissue segmentation at UHF. In this work, we evaluate the potential of parallel-transmission (pTx) to obtain high-quality MP-RAGE images of the human brain at 7 T. To this end, non-selective transmit-SENSE pulses were individually tailored for each of 8 subjects under study, and applied to an 8-channel transmit-array. Such RF pulses were designed both for the low-FA excitation train and the 180° inversion preparation involved in the sequence, both utilizing the recently introduced k(T)-point trajectory. The resulting images were compared with those obtained from the conventional method and from subject-specific RF-shimmed excitations. In addition, four of the volunteers were scanned at 3 T for benchmarking purposes (clinical setup without pTx). Subsequently, automated tissue classification was performed to provide a more quantitative measure of the final image quality. Results indicated that pTx could already significantly improve image quality at 7 T by adopting a suitable RF-Shim. Exploiting the full potential of the pTx-setup, the proposed k(T)-point method provided excellent inversion fidelity, comparable to what is commonly only achievable at 3 T with energy intensive adiabatic pulses. Furthermore, the cumulative energy deposition was simultaneously reduced by over 40% compared to the conventional adiabatic inversions. Regarding the low-FA k(T)-point based excitations, the FA uniformity achieved at 7 T surpassed what is typically obtained at 3 T. Subsequently, automated white and gray matter segmentation not only confirmed the expected improvements in image quality, but also suggests that care should be taken to properly account for the strong local susceptibility effects near cranial cavities. Overall, these findings indicate that the k(T)-point-based pTx solution is an excellent candidate for UHF 3D imaging, where patient safety is a major concern due to the increase of specific absorption rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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