Advances in MRI-based computational neuroanatomy: from morphometry to in-vivo histology

Curr Opin Neurol. 2015 Aug;28(4):313-22. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000222.


Purpose of review: Current computational neuroanatomy based on MRI focuses on morphological measures of the brain. We present recent methodological developments in quantitative MRI (qMRI) that provide standardized measures of the brain, which go beyond morphology. We show how biophysical modelling of qMRI data can provide quantitative histological measures of brain tissue, leading to the emerging field of in-vivo histology using MRI (hMRI).

Recent findings: qMRI has greatly improved the sensitivity and specificity of computational neuroanatomy studies. qMRI metrics can also be used as direct indicators of the mechanisms driving observed morphological findings. For hMRI, biophysical models of the MRI signal are being developed to directly access histological information such as cortical myelination, axonal diameters or axonal g-ratio in white matter. Emerging results indicate promising prospects for the combined study of brain microstructure and function.

Summary: Non-invasive brain tissue characterization using qMRI or hMRI has significant implications for both research and clinics. Both approaches improve comparability across sites and time points, facilitating multicentre/longitudinal studies and standardized diagnostics. hMRI is expected to shed new light on the relationship between brain microstructure, function and behaviour, both in health and disease, and become an indispensable addition to computational neuroanatomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity