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High-resolution in vivo imaging of human locus coeruleus by Magnetization Transfer MRI at 3T and 7T

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Locus Coeruleus (LC) is a neuromelanin-rich brainstem structure that is the source of noradrenaline in the cortex and is thought to modulate attention and memory. LC imaging in vivo is commonly performed with a 2D T 1-weighted Turbo Spin Echo (TSE) MRI sequence, an approach that suffers from several drawbacks at 3T, including long acquisition times and highly anisotropic spatial resolution. In this study, we developed a high-resolution Magnetization Transfer (MT) sequence for LC imaging at both 7T and 3T and compared its performance to a TSE sequence. Results indicate that LC imaging can be achieved with an MT sequence at both 7 and 3T at higher spatial resolution than the 3T TSE. Furthermore, we investigated whether the currently disputed source of contrast in the LC region with a TSE sequence relates to MT effects or shortened T 1 and T 2* due to increased iron concentration. Our results suggest that the contrast in the LC area relates to MT effects. To conclude, in this study we managed to image the LC, for the first time, at 7T and at an increased resolution compared to the current state-of-the-art. Imaging the LC is highly relevant for clinical diagnostics as structural tissue properties of the LC may hold promise as a biomarker in neurodegenerative diseases.

    Research areas

  • Locus coeruleus, Magnetization transfer, Neuromelanin, Brainstem, Norepinephrine, 7T, 3T, MRI, PARKINSONS-DISEASE, SUBSTANTIA-NIGRA, ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE, TRANSFER RATIO, NEURONAL VULNERABILITY, NORADRENERGIC SYSTEM, HUMAN BRAIN, NEUROMELANIN, CERULEUS, IRON, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods, Male, Young Adult, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted/methods, Adult, Female, Locus Coeruleus/anatomy & histology, Neuroimaging/methods
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-436
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018