Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain : Applications for Tissue Segmentation and Multiple Sclerosis

Sammanfattning: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a sensitive technique for assessing white matter (WM) lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS), but there is a low correlation between MRI findings and clinical disability. Because of this, other pathological changes are of interest, including changes in normal appearing white matter (NAWM) and diffusely abnormal white matter (DAWM). Even so, the mechanisms leading to permanent disability in MS remain unclear.In contrast to conventional MRI, quantitative MRI (qMRI) is aimed at the direct measurement of the physical tissue properties, such as the relaxation times, T1 and T2, as well as the proton density (PD). QMRI is promising for characterising and quantifying changes in MS and for brain tissue segmentation.The present work describes a novel method of qMRI for the human brain (QMAP), and a segmentation method based on this. The developed methods were validated in control subjects and MR phantoms. Furthermore, an application in diseased human brain was demonstrated in MS patients. In all, 50 healthy controls and 35 MS patients were scanned with qMRI in a total of 225 acquisitions.One major finding of this work was that qMRI was able to detect and quantify changes in the MS disease that were not visible using conventional MRI. In particular, it was found that DAWM appears to constitute an intermediate between focal white matter (WM) lesions and NAWM. These changes may be caused by pathological processes that are not entirely attributable to Wallerian degeneration.This study showed that the QMAP method had high accuracy and relatively high precision, within a clinically acceptable time. This work also demonstrated that qMRI could be used for brain tissue segmentation and volume estimation of the whole brain, using pre-defined tissue characteristics. The results showed that brain tissue segmentation had high repeatability, which was somewhat lower when different geometries were acquired or different field strengths used. In particular, small differences were found between 1.5 T and 3.0 T in deep brain structures, the cerebellum and the brain stem.This work leads the way for early clinical applications of qMRI, and the challenge for the years to come is to understand the connection between qMRI properties of the brain and underlying biology.