MR elastography frequency-dependent and independent parameters demonstrate accelerated decrease of brain stiffness in elder subjects

Eur Radiol. 2020 Dec;30(12):6614-6623. doi: 10.1007/s00330-020-07054-7. Epub 2020 Jul 18.


Objectives: To analyze the mechanical properties in different regions of the brain in healthy adults in a wide age range: 26 to 76 years old.

Methods: We used a multifrequency magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) protocol to analyze the effect of age on frequency-dependent (storage and loss moduli, G' and G″, respectively) and frequency-independent parameters (μ1, μ2, and η, as determined by a standard linear solid model) of the cerebral parenchyma, cortical gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), and subcortical GM structures of 46 healthy male and female subjects. The multifrequency behavior of the brain and frequency-independent parameters were analyzed across different age groups.

Results: The annual change rate ranged from - 0.32 to - 0.36% for G' and - 0.43 to - 0.55% for G″ for the cerebral parenchyma, cortical GM, and WM. For the subcortical GM, changes in G' ranged from - 0.18 to - 0.23%, and G″ changed - 0.43%. Interestingly, males exhibited decreased elasticity, while females exhibited decreased viscosity with respect to age in some regions of subcortical GM. Significantly decreased values were also found in subjects over 60 years old.

Conclusion: Values of G' and G″ at 60 Hz and the frequency-independent μ2 of the caudate, putamen, and thalamus may serve as parameters that characterize the aging effect on the brain. The decrease in brain stiffness accelerates in elderly subjects.

Key points: • We used a multifrequency MRE protocol to assess changes in the mechanical properties of the brain with age. • Frequency-dependent (storage moduli G' and loss moduli G″) and frequency-independent (μ1, μ2, and η) parameters can bequantitatively measured by our protocol. • The decreased value of viscoelastic properties due to aging varies in different regions of subcortical GM in males and females, and the decrease in brain stiffness is accelerated in elderly subjects over 60 years old.

Keywords: Brain; Elasticity; Magnetic resonance elastography; Neuroimaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Viscosity
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*