Human cerebral cortices: signal variation on diffusion-weighted MR imaging

Neuroradiology. 2008 Mar;50(3):205-11. doi: 10.1007/s00234-007-0327-9. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


Introduction: We have often encountered high signal intensity (SI) of the cingulate gyrus and insula during diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) on neurologically healthy adults. To date, cortical signal heterogeneity on DW images has not been investigated systematically. The purpose of our study was to determine whether there is regional signal variation in the brain cortices of neurologically healthy adults on DW-MR images.

Methods: The SI of the cerebral cortices on DW-MR images at 1.5 T was evaluated in 50 neurologically healthy subjects (34 men, 16 women; age range 33-84 years; mean age 57.6 years). The cortical SI in the cingulate gyrus, insula, and temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes was graded relative to the SI of the frontal lobe. Contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs) on DW-MR images were compared for each cortical area. Diffusion changes were analyzed by visually assessment of the differences in appearance among the cortices on apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps.

Results: Increased SI was frequently seen in the cingulate gyrus and insula regardless of patient age. There were no significant gender- or laterality-related differences. The CNR was significantly higher in the cingulate gyrus and insula than in the other cortices (p< .01) , and significant differences existed among the cortical regions (p< .001). There were no apparent ADC differences among the cortices on ADC maps.

Conclusion: Regional signal variation of the brain cortices was observed on DW-MR images of healthy subjects, and the cingulate gyrus and insula frequently manifested high SI. These findings may help in the recognition of cortical signal abnormalities as visualized on DW-MR images.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies