White matter of the brain has been demonstrated to have multiple relaxation components. Among them, the short transverse relaxation time component (T2<40 ms; T2⁎<25 ms at 3 T) has been suggested to originate from myelin water whereas long transverse relaxation time components have been associated with axonal and/or interstitial water. In myelin water imaging, T2 or T2⁎ signal decay is measured to estimate myelin water fraction based on T2 or T2⁎ differences among the water components. This method has been demonstrated to be sensitive to demyelination in the brain but suffers from low SNR and image artifacts originating from ill-conditioned multi-exponential fitting. In this study, a novel approach that selectively acquires short transverse relaxation time signal is proposed. The method utilizes a double inversion RF pair to suppress a range of long T1 signal. This suppression leaves short T2⁎ signal, which has been suggested to have short T1, as the primary source of the image. The experimental results confirm that after suppression of long T1 signals, the image is dominated by short T2⁎ in the range of myelin water, allowing us to directly visualize the short transverse relaxation time component in the brain. Compared to conventional myelin water imaging, this new method of direct visualization of short relaxation time component (ViSTa) provides high quality images. When applied to multiple sclerosis patients, chronic lesions show significantly reduced signal intensity in ViSTa images suggesting sensitivity to demyelination.
Keywords: Background suppression; Multiple water components in white matter; Myelin water imaging; T(1) filter; T(1) of myelin water.
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