Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides information about tissue water diffusion. Diffusion anisotropy, which can be measured with diffusion tensor MRI, is a quantitative measure of the directional dependence of the diffusion restriction that is introduced by biological structures such as nerve fibers. Diffusion tensor MRI data was obtained in the brain, brain stem, and cervical spinal cord. For each region, scans were performed in four normal volunteers. Fractional anisotropy (FA), an index of diffusion anisotropy, was measured within regions of interest located in the corpus callosum, capsula interna, thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, brain cortex, pyramidal tract of the medulla, accessory olivary nucleus, dorsal olivary nucleus, inferior olivary nucleus, spinal white and gray matter. The highest FA value was measured in the corpus callosum (81 +/- 3%). The values of the other areas decreased in the following order: pyramidal tract in the medulla (72 +/- 1%), spinal white matter (65 +/- 4%), capsula interna (62 +/- 3%), accessory olivary nucleus (36 +/- 2%), spinal gray matter (35 +/- 5%), dorsal olivary nucleus in the medulla (29 +/- 2%), thalamus (28 +/- 2%), inferior olivary nucleus (15 +/- 2%), putamen (13 +/- 2%), caudate nucleus (13 +/- 2%), and brain cortex (9 +/- 1%). Our results indicate that the underlying fiber architecture, fiber density, and uniformity of nerve fiber direction affect anisotropy values of the various structures. Characterization of various central nervous system structures with diffusion anisotropy is possible and may be useful to monitor degenerative diseases in the central nervous system.
Copyright 2003 Elsevier Ltd.