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Neuron. 2003 Dec 4;40(5):885-95.

Diffusion MRI of complex neural architecture.

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Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, 149 13th Street, Room 2301, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


While functional brain imaging methods can locate the cortical regions subserving particular cognitive functions, the connectivity between the functional areas of the human brain remains poorly understood. Recently, investigators have proposed a method to image neural connectivity noninvasively using a magnetic resonance imaging method called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI measures the molecular diffusion of water along neural pathways. Accurate reconstruction of neural connectivity patterns from DTI has been hindered, however, by the inability of DTI to resolve more than a single axon direction within each imaging voxel. Here, we present a novel magnetic resonance imaging technique that can resolve multiple axon directions within a single voxel. The technique, called q-ball imaging, can resolve intravoxel white matter fiber crossing as well as white matter insertions into cortex. The ability of q-ball imaging to resolve complex intravoxel fiber architecture eliminates a key obstacle to mapping neural connectivity in the human brain noninvasively.

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