Mapping myelin in white matter with T1-weighted/T2-weighted maps: discrepancy with histology and other myelin MRI measures

Brain Struct Funct. 2023 Mar;228(2):525-535. doi: 10.1007/s00429-022-02600-z. Epub 2023 Jan 24.


The ratio of T1-weighted/T2-weighted magnetic resonance images (T1w/T2w MRI) has been successfully applied at the cortical level since 2011 and is now one of the most used myelin mapping methods. However, no reports have explored the histological validity of T1w/T2w myelin mapping in white matter. Here we compare T1w/T2w with ex vivo postmortem histology and in vivo MRI methods, namely quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and multi-echo T2 myelin water fraction (MWF) mapping techniques. We report a discrepancy between T1w/T2w myelin maps of the human corpus callosum and the histology and analyse the putative causes behind such discrepancy. T1w/T2w does not positively correlate with Luxol Fast Blue (LFB)-Optical Density but shows a weak to moderate, yet significant, negative correlation. On the contrary, MWF is strongly and positively correlated with LFB, whereas T1w/T2w and MWF maps are weakly negatively correlated. The discrepancy between T1w/T2w MRI maps, MWF and histological myelin maps suggests caution in using T1w/T2w as a white matter mapping method at the callosal level. While T1w/T2w imaging may correlate with myelin content at the cortical level, it is not a specific method to map myelin density in white matter.

Keywords: Corpus callosum; Myelin mapping; Myelin water fraction; Neuroanatomy; Neuroimaging; Quantitative susceptibility mapping; Validation.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • Water
  • White Matter* / pathology


  • Water