Estimating myelin-water content from anatomical and diffusion images using spatially undersampled myelin-water imaging through machine learning

Gerhard S Drenthen*, Walter H Backes, Jacobus F A Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Myelin is vital for healthy neuronal development, and can therefore provide valuable information regarding neuronal maturation. Anatomical and diffusion weighted images (DWI) possess information related to the myelin content and the current study investigates whether quantitative myelin markers can be extracted from anatomical and DWI using neural networks. Thirteen volunteers (mean age 29y) are included, and for each subject, a residual neural network was trained using spatially undersampled reference myelin-water markers. The network is trained on a voxel-by-voxel basis, resulting in a large amount of training data for each volunteer. The inputs used are the anatomical contrasts (cT1w, cT2w), the standardized T1w/T2w ratio, estimates of the relaxation times (T1, T2) and their ratio (T1/T2), and common DWI metrics (FA, RD, MD, λ1, λ2, λ3). Furthermore, to estimate the added value of the DWI metrics, neural networks were trained using either the combined set (DWI, T1w and T2w) or only the anatomical (T1w and T2w) images. The reconstructed myelin-water maps are in good agreement with the reference myelin-water content in terms of the coefficient of variation (CoV) and the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). A 6-fold undersampling using both anatomical and DWI metrics resulted in ICC = .68 and CoV = 5.9%. Moreover, using twice the training data (3-fold undersampling) resulted in an ICC that is comparable to the reproducibility of the myelin-water imaging itself (CoV = 5.5% vs. CoV = 6.7% and ICC = .74 vs ICC = .80). To achieve this, beside the T1w, T2w images, DWI is required. This preliminary study shows the potential of machine learning approaches to extract specific myelin-content from anatomical and diffusion-weighted scans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117626
Number of pages7
Early online date7 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Neural networks
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Myelin-water fraction

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