Myelin Water Fraction and Intra/Extracellular Water Geometric Mean T2 Normative Atlases for the Cervical Spinal Cord from 3T MRI

J Neuroimaging. 2020 Jan;30(1):50-57. doi: 10.1111/jon.12659. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


Background and purpose: Acquiring and interpreting quantitative myelin-specific MRI data at an individual level is challenging because of technical difficulties and natural myelin variation in the population. To overcome these challenges, we used multiecho T2 myelin water imaging (MWI) to create T2 metric healthy population atlases that depict the mean and variation of myelin water fraction (MWF), and intra- and extracellular water mobility as described by geometric mean T2 (IEGMT2 ).

Methods: Cervical cord MWI was performed at 3T on 20 healthy individuals (10M/10F, mean age: 36 years) and 3 relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) participants (1M/2F, age: 39/42/37 years). Anatomical data were collected for the purpose of image segmentation and registration. Atlases were created by coregistering and averaging T2 metrics from all controls. Voxel-wise z-score maps from 3 RRMS participants were produced to demonstrate the preliminary utility of the MWF and IEGMT2 atlases.

Results: The average MWF atlas provides a representation of myelin in the spinal cord consistent with well-known spinal cord anatomical characteristics. The IEGMT2 atlas also depicted structural variations in the spinal cord. Z-score analysis illustrated distinct abnormalities in MWF and IEGMT2 in the 3 RRMS cases.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the potential for using a quantitative T2 relaxation metric atlas to visualize and detect pathology in spinal cord. Our MWF and IEGMT2 atlases (URL: can serve as normative references in the cervical spinal cord for other studies.

Keywords: atlas; cervical spinal cord; magnetic resonance imaging; myelin water imaging; white matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Cord / chemistry
  • Cervical Cord / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Cord / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath / chemistry*
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Water / analysis*


  • Water

Grant support