Several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrasts are sensitive to myelin content in gray matter in vivo which has ignited ambitions of MRI-based in vivo cortical histology. Ultra-high field (UHF) MRI, at fields of 7 T and beyond, is crucial to provide the resolution and contrast needed to sample contrasts over the depth of the cortex and get closer to layer resolved imaging. Ex vivo MRI of human post mortem samples is an important stepping stone to investigate MRI contrast in the cortex, validate it against histology techniques applied in situ to the same tissue, and investigate the resolutions needed to translate ex vivo findings to in vivo UHF MRI. Here, we investigate key technology to extend such UHF studies to large human brain samples while maintaining high resolution, which allows investigation of the layered architecture of several cortical areas over their entire 3D extent and their complete borders where architecture changes. A 16 channel cylindrical phased array radiofrequency (RF) receive coil was constructed to image a large post mortem occipital lobe sample (~80x80x80mm3) in a wide-bore 9.4 T human scanner with the aim of achieving high-resolution anatomical and quantitative MR images. Compared with a human head coil at 9.4 T, the maximum Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) was increased by a factor of about five in the peripheral cortex. Although the transmit profile with a circularly polarized transmit mode at 9.4 T is relatively inhomogeneous over the large sample, this challenge was successfully resolved with parallel transmit using the kT-points method. Using this setup, we achieved 60μm anatomical images for the entire occipital lobe showing increased spatial definition of cortical details compared to lower resolutions. In addition, we were able to achieve sufficient control over SNR, B0 and B1 homogeneity and multi-contrast sampling to perform quantitative T2⁎ mapping over the same volume at 200μm. Markov Chain Monte Carlo sampling provided maximum posterior estimates of quantitative T2⁎ and their uncertainty, allowing delineation of the stria of Gennari over the entire length and width of the calcarine sulcus. We discuss how custom RF receive coil arrays built to specific large post mortem sample sizes can provide a platform for UHF cortical layer-specific quantitative MRI over large fields of view.
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- STRUCTURE TENSOR ANALYSIS, HIGH-FIELD MRI, MAGNETIC-RESONANCE, HUMAN BRAIN, DIFFUSION MRI, HISTOLOGICAL VALIDATION, CEREBRAL-CORTEX, TEMPORAL-LOBE, PHASED-ARRAY, TESLA, Humans, Gray Matter/drug effects, White Matter/diagnostic imaging, Occipital Lobe/diagnostic imaging, Magnetic Resonance Imaging/instrumentation