Application of quantitative MRI for brain tissue segmentation at 1.5 T and 3.0 T field strengths

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 16;8(9):e74795. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074795. eCollection 2013.


Background: Brain tissue segmentation of white matter (WM), grey matter (GM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) are important in neuroradiological applications. Quantitative Mri (qMRI) allows segmentation based on physical tissue properties, and the dependencies on MR scanner settings are removed. Brain tissue groups into clusters in the three dimensional space formed by the qMRI parameters R1, R2 and PD, and partial volume voxels are intermediate in this space. The qMRI parameters, however, depend on the main magnetic field strength. Therefore, longitudinal studies can be seriously limited by system upgrades. The aim of this work was to apply one recently described brain tissue segmentation method, based on qMRI, at both 1.5 T and 3.0 T field strengths, and to investigate similarities and differences.

Methods: In vivo qMRI measurements were performed on 10 healthy subjects using both 1.5 T and 3.0 T MR scanners. The brain tissue segmentation method was applied for both 1.5 T and 3.0 T and volumes of WM, GM, CSF and brain parenchymal fraction (BPF) were calculated on both field strengths. Repeatability was calculated for each scanner and a General Linear Model was used to examine the effect of field strength. Voxel-wise t-tests were also performed to evaluate regional differences.

Results: Statistically significant differences were found between 1.5 T and 3.0 T for WM, GM, CSF and BPF (p<0.001). Analyses of main effects showed that WM was underestimated, while GM and CSF were overestimated on 1.5 T compared to 3.0 T. The mean differences between 1.5 T and 3.0 T were -66 mL WM, 40 mL GM, 29 mL CSF and -1.99% BPF. Voxel-wise t-tests revealed regional differences of WM and GM in deep brain structures, cerebellum and brain stem.

Conclusions: Most of the brain was identically classified at the two field strengths, although some regional differences were observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Research funding and support for this project that was obtained from University Hospital Research Funds, Linköping University and the National Research Council (VR/NT). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.