BACKGROUND: The emerging field of ultra-high field MRI (UHF-MRI, 7 Tesla and higher) provides the opportunity to image human brains at a higher resolution and with higher signal-to-noise ratios compared to the more widely available 1.5 and 3T scanners. Scanning postmortem tissue additionally allows for greatly increased scan times and fewer movement issues leading to improvements in image quality. However, typical postmortem neuroimaging routines involve placing the tissue within plastic bags that leave room for susceptibility artifacts from tissue-air interfaces, inadequate submersion, and leakage issues. To address these challenges in postmortem imaging, a custom-built nonferromagnetic container was developed that allows whole brain hemispheres to be scanned at sub-millimeter resolution within typical head-coils.
METHOD: The custom-built polymethylmethacrylaat container consists of a cylinder with a hemispheric side and a lid with valves on the adjacent side. This shape fits within common MR head-coils and allows whole hemispheres to be submerged and vacuum sealed within it reducing imaging artifacts that would otherwise arise at air-tissue boundaries. Two hemisphere samples were scanned on a Siemens 9.4T Magnetom MRI scanner. High resolution T2* weighted data was obtained with a custom 3D gradient echo (GRE) sequence and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) scans were obtained with a 3D kT-dSTEAM sequence along 48 directions.
RESULTS: The custom-built container proved to submerge and contain tissue samples effectively and showed no interferences with MR scanning acquisition. The 3D GRE sequence provided high resolution isotropic T2* weighted data at 250μm which showed a clear visualization of grey and white matter structures. DWI scans allowed for dense reconstruction of structural white matter connections via tractography.
CONCLUSION: Using this custom-built container worked towards achieving high quality MR images of postmortem brain material. This procedure can have advantages over traditional schemes including utilization of a standardized protocol and the reduced likelihood of leakage. This methodology could be adjusted and used to improve typical postmortem imaging routines.
- Postmortem human brain
- Ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (UHF-MRI)
- Custom-made container