Magnetic resonance elastography of the brain: A comparison between pigs and humans

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2018 Jan;77:702-710. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2017.08.029. Epub 2017 Aug 26.


Magnetic resonance elastography holds promise as a non-invasive, easy-to-use, in vivo biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases. Throughout the past decade, pigs have gained increased popularity as large animal models for human neurodegeneration. However, the volume of a pig brain is an order of magnitude smaller than the human brain, its skull is 40% thicker, and its head is about twice as big. This raises the question to which extent established vibration devices, actuation frequencies, and analysis tools for humans translate to large animal studies in pigs. Here we explored the feasibility of using human brain magnetic resonance elastography to characterize the dynamic properties of the porcine brain. In contrast to humans, where vibration devices induce an anterior-posterior displacement recorded in transverse sections, the porcine anatomy requires a dorsal-ventral displacement recorded in coronal sections. Within these settings, we applied a wide range of actuation frequencies, from 40Hz to 90Hz, and recorded the storage and loss moduli for human and porcine brains. Strikingly, we found that optimal actuation frequencies for humans translate one-to-one to pigs and reliably generate shear waves for elastographic post-processing. In a direct comparison, human and porcine storage and loss moduli followed similar trends and increased with increasing frequency. When translating these frequency-dependent storage and loss moduli into the frequency-independent stiffnesses and viscosities of a standard linear solid model, we found human values of μ1=1.3kPa, μ2=2.1kPa, and η=0.025kPas and porcine values of μ1=2.0kPa, μ2=4.9kPa, and η=0.046kPas. These results suggest that living human brain is softer and less viscous than dead porcine brain. Our study compares, for the first time, magnetic resonance elastography in human and porcine brains, and paves the way towards systematic interspecies comparison studies and ex vivo validation of magnetic resonance elastography as a whole.

Keywords: Human brain; Magnetic resonance elastography; Porcine brain; Storage and loss moduli; Viscoelasticity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Elasticity
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Pressure
  • Shear Strength
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Swine
  • Viscosity
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers