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Hum Brain Mapp. 2017 Apr;38(4):1780-1790. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23481. Epub 2016 Dec 23.

Test-retest reliability and concurrent validity of in vivo myelin content indices: Myelin water fraction and calibrated T1 w/T2 w image ratio.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.


In an age-heterogeneous sample of healthy adults, we examined test-retest reliability (with and without participant repositioning) of two popular MRI methods of estimating myelin content: modeling the short spin-spin (T2 ) relaxation component of multi-echo imaging data and computing the ratio of T1 -weighted and T2 -weighted images (T1 w/T2 w). Taking the myelin water fraction (MWF) index of myelin content derived from the multi-component T2 relaxation data as a standard, we evaluate the concurrent and differential validity of T1 w/T2 w ratio images. The results revealed high reliability of MWF and T1 w/T2 w ratio. However, we found significant correlations of low to moderate magnitude between MWF and the T1 w/T2 w ratio in only two of six examined regions of the cerebral white matter. Notably, significant correlations of the same or greater magnitude were observed for T1 w/T2 w ratio and the intermediate T2 relaxation time constant, which is believed to reflect differences in the mobility of water between the intracellular and extracellular compartments. We conclude that although both methods are highly reliable and thus well-suited for longitudinal studies, T1 w/T2 w ratio has low criterion validity and may be not an optimal index of subcortical myelin content. Hum Brain Mapp 38:1780-1790, 2017.


MRI; Simpson paradox; T2 relaxation; brain water mobility; white matter

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