Relaxo-volumetric multispectral quantitative magnetic resonance imaging of the brain over the human lifespan: global and regional aging patterns

Magn Reson Imaging. 2009 Sep;27(7):895-906. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2009.05.006. Epub 2009 Jun 10.


The objective of this study was to determine the T1, T2 and secular-T2 relaxo-volumetric brain aging patterns using multispectral quantitative magnetic resonance imaging, both globally and regionally, and covering an age range approaching the full human lifespan. Fifty-one subjects (28 males, 23 females; age range: 0.5-87 years) were studied consisting of 18 healthy volunteers and 33 patients. Patients were selected after carefully reviewing their radiology reports to have either normal-by-MRI findings (25 patient subjects) or small focal pathology less than 6 mm in size (eight patient subjects). All subjects were MR imaged at 1.5 T with the mixed turbo spin echo pulse sequence. The soft tissues inside the cranial vault, termed intracranial matter (ICM), were segmented using a dual-clustering segmentation algorithm. ICM segments were further divided into six subsegments: bilateral anterior cerebral, posterior cerebral and cerebellar subsegments. T1, T2 and secular-T2 relaxation time histograms of all segments were generated and modeled with Gaussian functions. For each segment, the volumes of white matter, gray matter and cerebrospinal fluid were calculated from the T1 histograms. The age-related tendencies of three quantitative MRI parameters (T1, T2 and secular-T2) and the fractional tissue volumes showed four distinct periods of life, specifically a maturation period (0-2 years), a development period (2-20 years), an adulthood period (20-60 years) and a senescence period (60 years and older). For all ages, the anterior cerebral subsegment exhibited consistently longer gray matter T1s and shorter white matter T1s than the posterior cerebral and cerebellar subsegments. Volumetric age-related changes of the cerebellar subsegment were more gradual than in the cerebral subsegments. This study shows that relaxometric and volumetric age-related changes are synchronized and define the same four periods of brain evolution both globally and regionally.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Young Adult