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J Vis Exp. 2015 Dec 30;(106):e53309. doi: 10.3791/53309.

High-resolution Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Human Subcortex In Vivo and Postmortem.

Author information

Department of Biology and Centre for Vision Research, York University;
York MRI Facility, York University.
Department of Biology and Centre for Vision Research, York University.
Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Sciences, Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology, University of Toronto.


The focus of this study was to test the resolution limits of structural MRI of a postmortem brain compared to living human brains. The resolution of structural MRI in vivo is ultimately limited by physiological noise, including pulsation, respiration and head movement. Although imaging hardware continues to improve, it is still difficult to resolve structures on the millimeter scale. For example, the primary visual sensory pathways synapse at the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), a visual relay and control nucleus in the thalamus that normally is organized into six interleaved monocular layers. Neuroimaging studies have not been able to reliably distinguish these layers due their small size that are less than 1 mm thick. The resolving limit of structural MRI, in a postmortem brain was tested using multiple images averaged over a long duration (~24 h). The purpose was to test whether it was possible to resolve the individual layers of the LGN in the absence of physiological noise. A proton density (PD)(1) weighted pulse sequence was used with varying resolution and other parameters to determine the minimum number of images necessary to be registered and averaged to reliably distinguish the LGN and other subcortical regions. The results were also compared to images acquired in living human brains. In vivo subjects were scanned in order to determine the additional effects of physiological noise on the minimum number of PD scans needed to differentiate subcortical structures, useful in clinical applications.

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