7T MP2RAGE for cortical myelin segmentation: Impact of aging

PLoS One. 2024 Apr 16;19(4):e0299670. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0299670. eCollection 2024.


Background: Myelin and iron are major contributors to the cortical MR signal. The aim of this study was to investigate 1. Can MP2RAGE-derived contrasts at 7T in combination with k-means clustering be used to distinguish between heavily and sparsely myelinated layers in cortical gray matter (GM)? 2. Does this approach provide meaningful biological information?

Methods: The following contrasts were generated from the 7T MP2RAGE images from 45 healthy controls (age: 19-75, f/m = 23/22) from the ATAG data repository: 1. T1 weighted image (UNI). 2. T1 relaxation image (T1map). 3. INVC/T1map ratio (RATIO). K-means clustering identified 6 clusters/tissue maps (csf, csf/gm-transition, wm, wm/gm transition, heavily myelinated cortical GM (dGM), sparsely myelinated cortical GM (sGM)). These tissue maps were then processed with SPM/DARTEL (volume-based analyses) and Freesurfer (surface-based analyses) and dGM and sGM volume/thickness of young adults (n = 27, 19-27 years) compared to those of older adults (n = 18, 42-75 years) at p<0.001 uncorrected.

Results: The resulting maps showed good agreement with histological maps in the literature. Volume- and surface analyses found age-related dGM loss/thinning in the mid-posterior cingulate and parahippocampal/entorhinal gyrus and age-related sGM losses in lateral, mesial and orbitofrontal frontal, insular cortex and superior temporal gyrus.

Conclusion: The MP2RAGE derived UNI, T1map and RATIO contrasts can be used to identify dGM and sGM. Considering the close relationship between cortical myelo- and cytoarchitecture, the findings reported here indicate that this new technique might provide new insights into the nature of cortical GM loss in physiological and pathological conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Gray Matter
  • Gyrus Cinguli
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The author received no specific funding for this work.