Affiliations: [a] School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK | [b] Institute of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK | [c] North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol, UK | [d] Clinical Research and Imaging Centre, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
Corresponding author: Dr. Michael J. Knight, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol, BS8 1TU, UK. Tel.: +44 117 331 7893; E-mail: [email protected].
Abstract: BACKGROUND: The use of T2 relaxation contrast, as measured by MRI, is particularly commonplace in non-invasive assessment of the brain. However, the mechanisms and uses of T2 relaxation in the brain are still not fully understood. The hypothesis that T2 relaxation may show anisotropy in the human brain was studied at 3 T. T2 anisotropy refers to the variation of T2 in ordered structures with respect to the direction of the applied magnetic field. METHODS: Using a 3 T clinical MRI scanner, we made quantitative multi-contrast spin-echo T2 and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurements in healthy volunteers, repeating the measurements with the subject’s head oriented differently relative to the applied field, for the measurement of possible spin-echo T2 anisotropy. RESULTS: We report T2 relaxation anisotropy measurements and present a means for visualising it according to the principal orientation of ordered structures in the brain parenchyma. We introduce a parameter for the model-free description of T2 anisotropy, namely the T2 “fractional anisotropy”, similar to that used to describe anisotropy of translational diffusion. This parameterisation enables the overall level of anisotropy in T2 across a chosen region or tissue to be calculated. Anisotropic T2 relaxation was observed in both gray and white matter, though to a greater extent in the latter, with a strong relationship with the anisotropy of translational diffusion. This is evidenced by making repeat measurements with the subject’s head tilted to different angles relative to the applied magnetic field, by which means we observed the T2 at the same anatomical site to change. CONCLUSIONS: Relaxation anisotropy has a significant effect on T2 in the brain parenchyma. It has the potential to offer non-invasive access to tissue microstructure not available by other imaging modalities, and may be sensitive to pathology or noxious factors not detected by other means.