Probing in vivo cortical myeloarchitecture in humans via line-scan diffusion acquisitions at 7 T with 250-500 micron radial resolution

Magn Reson Med. 2021 Jan;85(1):390-403. doi: 10.1002/mrm.28419. Epub 2020 Aug 1.


Purpose: The goal of this study was to measure diffusion signals within the cerebral cortex using the line-scan technique to achieve extremely high resolution in the radial direction (ie, perpendicular to the cortical surface) and to demonstrate the utility of these measurements for investigating laminar architecture in the living human brain.

Methods: Line-scan diffusion data with 250-500 micron radial resolution were acquired at 7 T on 8 healthy volunteers, with each line prescribed perpendicularly to primary somatosensory cortex (S1) and primary motor cortex (M1). Apparent diffusion coefficients, fractional anisotropy values, and radiality indices were measured as a function of cortical depth.

Results: In the deep layers of S1, we found evidence for high anisotropy and predominantly tangential diffusion, with low anisotropy observed in superficial S1. In M1, moderate anisotropy and predominantly radial diffusion was seen at almost all cortical depths. These patterns were consistent across subjects and were conspicuous without averaging data across different locations on the cortical sheet.

Conclusion: Our results are in accord with the myeloarchitecture of S1 and M1, known from prior histology studies: in S1, dense bands of tangential myelinated fibers run through the deep layers but not the superficial ones, and in M1, radial myelinated fibers are prominent at most cortical depths. This work therefore provides support for the idea that high-resolution diffusion signals, measured with the line-scan technique and receiving a boost in SNR at 7 T, may serve as a sensitive probe of in vivo laminar architecture.

Keywords: primary motor cortex (M1); primary somatosensory cortex (S1); radial diffusion; tangential diffusion; tissue microstructure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Cerebral Cortex*
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*