The biophysical basis of tissue contrast in extracranial MR imaging

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1987 Oct;149(4):831-7. doi: 10.2214/ajr.149.4.831.


So that radiologists can understand better the differences between tissues that determine MR image contrast, the biophysical basis of proton-MR tissue contrast is reviewed. Differences in the molecular sizes of water, fat, and protein macromolecules affect the rate of molecular motion, which in turn influences relaxation times. Differences in the physical state of water within tissues determine the extent to which the motion of water is restricted by binding to hydrophilic macromolecules (e.g., protein), which in turn causes variable amounts of T1 and T2 shortening. Understanding these concepts and knowing the location in the body of free water, cellular tissues, fat, collagen, bone, and tissue iron improve the radiologist's ability to extract useful information from MR images.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Body Fluids
  • Bone and Bones
  • Collagen
  • Extracellular Space
  • Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*


  • Collagen