Multisite exchange models have been applied frequently to quantify measurements of transverse relaxation and diffusion in living tissues. Although the simplicity of such models is attractive, the precise relationship of the model parameters to tissue properties may be difficult to ascertain. Here, we investigate numerically a two-compartment exchange (Kärger) model as applied to diffusion in a system of randomly packed identical parallel cylinders with permeable walls, representing cells with permeable membranes, that may serve particularly as a model for axons in the white matter of the brain. By performing Monte Carlo simulations of restricted diffusion, we show that the Kärger model may provide a reasonable coarse-grained description of the diffusion-weighted signal in the long time limit, as long as the cell membranes are sufficiently impermeable, i.e. whenever the residence time in a cell is much longer than the time it takes to diffuse across it. For larger permeabilities, the exchange time obtained from fitting to the Kärger model overestimates the actual exchange time, leading to an underestimated value of cell membrane permeability.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.