Brain tissue changes accompany multiple neurodegenerative and developmental conditions in adolescents. Complex processes that occur in the developing brain with disease can be evaluated accurately only against normal aging processes. Normal developmental changes in different brain areas alter tissue water content, which can be assessed by magnetic resonance (MR) T2 relaxometry. We acquired proton-density (PD) and T2-weighted images from 31 subjects (mean age±S.D., 17.4±4.9 years; 18 male), using a 3.0-T MR imaging scanner. Voxel-by-voxel T2-relaxation values were calculated, and whole-brain T2-relaxation maps constructed and normalized to a common space template. We created a set of regions of interest (ROIs) over cortical gray and white matter, basal ganglia, amygdala, thalamic, hypothalamic, pontine and cerebellar sites, with sizes of ROIs varying from 12 to 243 mm(3); regional T2-relaxation values were determined from these ROIs and normalized T2-relaxation maps. Correlations between R2 (1/T2) values in these sites and age were assessed with Pearson's correlation procedures, and gender differences in regional T2-relaxation values were evaluated with independent-samples t tests. Several brain regions, but not all, showed principally positive correlations between R2 values and age; negative correlations emerged in the cerebellar peduncles. No significant differences in T2-relaxation values emerged between males and females for those areas, except for the mid pons and left occipital white matter; males showed higher T2-relaxation values over females. The findings indicate that T2-relaxation values vary with development between brain structures, and emphasize the need to correct for such age-related effects during any determination of potential changes from control values.
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