Myelin Measurement: Comparison Between Simultaneous Tissue Relaxometry, Magnetization Transfer Saturation Index, and T1w/T2w Ratio Methods

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 12;8(1):10554. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28852-6.


Magnetization transfer (MT) imaging has been widely used for estimating myelin content in the brain. Recently, two other approaches, namely simultaneous tissue relaxometry of R1 and R2 relaxation rates and proton density (SyMRI) and the ratio of T1-weighted to T2-weighted images (T1w/T2w ratio), were also proposed as methods for measuring myelin. SyMRI and MT imaging have been reported to correlate well with actual myelin by histology. However, for T1w/T2w ratio, such evidence is limited. In 20 healthy adults, we examined the correlation between these three methods, using MT saturation index (MTsat) for MT imaging. After calibration, white matter (WM) to gray matter (GM) contrast was the highest for SyMRI among these three metrics. Even though SyMRI and MTsat showed strong correlation in the WM (r = 0.72), only weak correlation was found between T1w/T2w and SyMRI (r = 0.45) or MTsat (r = 0.38) (correlation coefficients significantly different from each other, with p values < 0.001). In subcortical and cortical GM, these measurements showed moderate to strong correlations to each other (r = 0.54 to 0.78). In conclusion, the high correlation between SyMRI and MTsat indicates that both methods are similarly suited to measure myelin in the WM, whereas T1w/T2w ratio may be less optimal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / cytology
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • White Matter / cytology
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*