Quantitative brain relaxation atlases for personalized detection and characterization of brain pathology

Magn Reson Med. 2020 Jan;83(1):337-351. doi: 10.1002/mrm.27927. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Purpose: To exploit the improved comparability and hardware independency of quantitative MRI, databases of MR physical parameters in healthy tissue are required, to which tissue properties of patients can be compared. In this work, normative values for longitudinal and transverse relaxation times in the brain were established and tested in single-subject comparisons for detection of abnormal relaxation times.

Methods: Relaxometry maps of the brain were acquired from 52 healthy volunteers. After spatially normalizing the volumes into a common space, T1 and T2 inter-subject variability within the healthy cohort was modeled voxel-wise. A method for a single-subject comparison against the atlases was developed by computing z-scores with respect to the established healthy norms. The comparison was applied to two multiple sclerosis and one clinically isolated syndrome cases for a proof of concept.

Results: The established atlases exhibit a low variation in white matter structures (median RMSE of models equal to 32 ms for T1 and 4 ms for T2 ), indicating that relaxation times are in a narrow range for normal tissues. The proposed method for single-subject comparison detected relaxation time deviations from healthy norms in the example patient data sets. Relaxation times were found to be increased in brain lesions (mean z-scores >5). Moreover, subtle and confluent differences (z-scores ~2-4) were observed in clinically plausible regions (between lesions, corpus callosum).

Conclusions: Brain T1 and T2 quantitative norms were derived voxel-wise with low variability in healthy tissue. Example patient deviation maps demonstrated good sensitivity of the atlases for detecting relaxation time alterations.

Keywords: T1 and T2 mapping; normative atlases; quantitative MRI; single-subject comparisons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Telemetry
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult