Harnessing brain waves: a review of brain magnetic resonance elastography for clinicians and scientists entering the field

Br J Radiol. 2021 Mar 1;94(1119):20200265. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20200265.


Brain magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is an imaging technique capable of accurately and non-invasively measuring the mechanical properties of the living human brain. Recent studies have shown that MRE has potential to provide clinically useful information in patients with intracranial tumors, demyelinating disease, neurodegenerative disease, elevated intracranial pressure, and altered functional states. The objectives of this review are: (1) to give a general overview of the types of measurements that have been obtained with brain MRE in patient populations, (2) to survey the tools currently being used to make these measurements possible, and (3) to highlight brain MRE-based quantitative biomarkers that have the highest potential of being adopted into clinical use within the next 5 to 10 years. The specifics of MRE methodology strategies are described, from wave generation to material parameter estimations. The potential clinical role of MRE for characterizing and planning surgical resection of intracranial tumors and assessing diffuse changes in brain stiffness resulting from diffuse neurological diseases and altered intracranial pressure are described. In addition, the emerging technique of functional MRE, the role of artificial intelligence in MRE, and promising applications of MRE in general neuroscience research are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Humans