Measurement of radiotracer concentration in brain gray matter using positron emission tomography: MRI-based correction for partial volume effects

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1992 Jul;12(4):571-83. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.1992.81.


Accuracy in in vivo quantitation of brain function with positron emission tomography (PET) has often been limited by partial volume effects. This limitation becomes prominent in studies of aging and degenerative brain diseases where partial volume effects vary with different degrees of atrophy. The present study describes how the actual gray matter (GM) tracer concentration can be estimated using an algorithm that relates the regional fraction of GM to partial volume effects. The regional fraction of GM was determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The procedure is designated as GM PET. In computer simulations and phantom studies, the GM PET algorithm permitted a 100% recovery of the actual tracer concentration in neocortical GM and hippocampus, irrespective of the GM volume. GM PET was applied in a test case of temporal lobe epilepsy revealing an increase in radiotracer activity in GM that was undetected in the PET image before correction for partial volume effects. In computer simulations, errors in the segmentation of GM and errors in registration of PET and MRI images resulted in less than 15% inaccuracy in the GM PET image. In conclusion, GM PET permits accurate determination of the actual radiotracer concentration in human brain GM in vivo. The method differentiates whether a change in the apparent radiotracer concentration reflects solely an alteration in GM volume or rather a change in radiotracer concentration per unit volume of GM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Radioisotopes / metabolism*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Radioisotopes