Positron emission tomography metabolic data corrected for cortical atrophy using magnetic resonance imaging

Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. Fall 1996;10(3):141-70. doi: 10.1097/00002093-199601030-00005.


The correct interpretation of clinical positron emission tomography (PET) data depends largely on the physical limits of the PET scanner. The partial volume effect (PVE) is related to the size of the studied object compared to the spatial resolution. It represents one of the most important limiting factors in quantitative data analysis. This effect is increased in the case of atrophy, as in patients with Alzheimer disease (AD), and it influences measurement of the metabolic reduction generally seen in cerebral degeneration. In this case, interpretation can be biased, because cortical activity will be underestimated due to the atrophy. In general, anatomical images of AD patients have shown diffuse atrophy, while PET studies have found widespread hypometabolism affecting the parietal and temporal lobes. Although hypometabolic areas usually correspond to atrophic regions, they also occur without such changes. Thus, the aim is to differentiate authentic hypometabolism (decrease of glucose consumption per unit volume of gray matter) from that due to PVE from atrophy (cell loss). Consequently, we are using a method for three-dimensional (3D) correction of human PET data with 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We measured atrophy and metabolism by using both T1-weighted MR images and high and medium resolution PET scans. We injected 12 patients and controls with [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose for glucose consumption measurements. Atrophy was estimated in the following way. We isolated the cerebral structures, using a segmentation technique on the MRI scans, into gray matter (GM), white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid. We superimposed the PET images onto the MR images to obtain anatomo-functional correlations. We degraded the segmented MR images to the resolution of the PET images by a convolution process to create a PET image correction map. We corrected the metabolic PET data for the PVE. We studied the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose in the GM where metabolic variation is the most relevant to AD. By dealing with problems relating to the sensitivity to the segmentation and to the PET-MRI coregistration, computation of MRI convolution processes provided the degree of PVE on a pixel-by-pixel basis, allowing correction of hypometabolisms contained in GM PET values. Global cortical metabolism increased after correction for PVE by, on average, 29 and 24% for tomographs acquired with medium (TTV03 LETI) and high (ECAT 953B CTI/Siemens) resolution, respectively, whereas the cortical metabolism increased by 75 and 65% for the respective tomographs in AD patients. The difference of metabolism between scans after correction for PVE was less than before correction, decreasing from 31 to 17%. This difference was most marked in the frontal and temporal lobes. Fusion imaging allowed correction for PVE in metabolic data using 3D MRI and determination of whether a change in the apparent radiotracer concentration in PET data reflected an alteration in GM volume, a change in radiotracer concentration per unit volume of GM, or both.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*