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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 6;9(1):e84822. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084822. eCollection 2014.

Diurnal microstructural variations in healthy adult brain revealed by diffusion tensor imaging.

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Paul C. Lauterbur Research Center for Biomedical Imaging, Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen, China.


Biorhythm is a fundamental property of human physiology. Changes in the extracellular space induced by cell swelling in response to the neural activity enable the in vivo characterization of cerebral microstructure by measuring the water diffusivity using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). To study the diurnal microstructural alterations of human brain, fifteen right-handed healthy adult subjects were recruited for DTI studies in two repeated sessions (8∶30 AM and 8∶30 PM) within a 24-hour interval. Fractional anisotropy (FA), apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), axial (λ//) and radial diffusivity (λ⊥) were compared pixel by pixel between the sessions for each subject. Significant increased morning measurements in FA, ADC, λ// and λ⊥ were seen in a wide range of brain areas involving frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes. Prominent evening dominant λ⊥ (18.58%) was detected in the right inferior temporal and ventral fusiform gyri. AM-PM variation of λ⊥ was substantially left side hemisphere dominant (p<0.05), while no hemispheric preference was observed for the same analysis for ADC (p = 0.77), λ// (p = 0.08) or FA (p = 0.25). The percentage change of ADC, λ//, λ⊥, and FA were 1.59%, 2.15%, 1.20% and 2.84%, respectively, for brain areas without diurnal diffusivity contrast. Microstructural variations may function as the substrates of the phasic neural activities in correspondence to the environment adaptation in a light-dark cycle. This research provided a baseline for researches in neuroscience, sleep medicine, psychological and psychiatric disorders, and necessitates that diurnal effect should be taken into account in following up studies using diffusion tensor quantities.

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