Purpose: Rapid acquisition scheme and parameter estimation method are proposed to acquire distortion-free spin- and stimulated-echo signals and combine the signals with a physics-driven unsupervised network to estimate T1 , T2 , and proton density (M0 ) parameter maps, along with B0 and B1 information from the acquired signals.
Theory and methods: An imaging sequence with three 90° RF pulses is utilized to acquire spin- and stimulated-echo signals. We utilize blip-up/-down acquisition to eliminate geometric distortion incurred by the effects of B0 inhomogeneity on rapid EPI acquisitions. For multislice imaging, echo-shifting is applied to utilize dead time between the second and third RF pulses to encode information from additional slice positions. To estimate parameter maps from the spin- and stimulated-echo signals with high fidelity, 2 estimation methods, analytic fitting and a novel unsupervised deep neural network method, are developed.
Results: The proposed acquisition provided distortion-free T1 , T2 , relative proton density (M0), B0 , and B1 maps with high fidelity both in phantom and in vivo brain experiments. From the rapidly acquired spin- and stimulated-echo signals, analytic fitting and the network-based method were able to estimate T1 , T2 , M0 , B0 , and B1 maps with high accuracy. Network estimates demonstrated noise robustness owing to the fact that the convolutional layers take information into account from spatially adjacent voxels.
Conclusion: The proposed acquisition/reconstruction technique enabled whole-brain acquisition of coregistered, distortion-free, T1 , T2 , M0 , B0 , and B1 maps at 1 × 1 × 5 mm3 resolution in 50 s. The proposed unsupervised neural network provided noise-robust parameter estimates from this rapid acquisition.
Keywords: distortion correction; multicontrast MRI; quantitative MRI; stimulated echo; unsupervised parameter estimation.
© 2022 International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.