Background and purpose: Iron deposition and white matter (WM) maturation are very important for brain development in infants. It has been reported that the R2* and phase values originating from the gradient-echo sequence could both reflect the iron and myelination. The aim of this study was to investigate age-related changes of R2* and phase value, and compare their performances for monitoring iron deposition and WM maturation in infant brains.
Methods: 56 infants were examined by enhanced T2 star weighted angiography (ESWAN) and diffusion tensor imaging in the 1.5T MRI system. The R2* and phase values were measured from the deep gray nuclei and WM. Fractional anisotropy (FA) values were measured only in the WM regions. Correlation analyses were performed to explore the relation among the two parameters (R2* and phase values) and postmenstrual age (PMA), previously published iron concentrations as well as FA values.
Results: We found significantly positive correlations between the R2* values and PMA in both of the gray nuclei and WM. Moreover, R2* values had a positive correlation with the iron reference concentrations in the deep gray nuclei and the FA in the WM. However, phase values only had the positive correlation with PMA and FA in the internal capsule, and no significant correlation with PMA and iron content in the deep gray nuclei.
Conclusions: Compared with the phase values, R2* may be a preferable method to estimate the iron deposition and WM maturation in infant brains.