Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Physics

Supervisor

Dr. Ravi S. Menon

Abstract

This thesis has used ultra-high field (UHF) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the fundamental relationships between tissue microstructure and such susceptibility-based contrast parameters as the apparent transverse relaxation rate (R2*), the local Larmor frequency shift (LFS) and quantitative volume magnetic susceptibility (QS). The interaction of magnetic fields with biological tissues results in shifts in the LFS which can be used to distinguish underlying cellular architecture. The LFS is also linked to the relaxation properties of tissues in a gradient echo MRI sequence. Equally relevant, histological analysis has identified iron and myelin as two major sources of the LFS. As a result, computation of LFS and the associated volume magnetic susceptibility from MRI phase data may serve as a significant method for in vivo monitoring of changes in iron and myelin associated with normal, healthy aging, as well as neurological disease processes.

In this research, the cellular level underpinnings of the R2* and LFS signals were examined in a model rat brain system using 9.4 T MRI. The study was carried out using biophysical modeling and correlation with quantitative histology. For the first time, multiple biophysical modeling schemes were compared in both gray and white matter of excised rat brain tissue. Suprisingly, R2* dependence on tissue orientation has not been fully understood. Accordingly, scaling relations were derived for calculating the reversible, mesoscopic magnetic field component, R2', of the apparent transverse relaxation rate from the orientation dependence in gray and white matter. Our results demonstrate that the orientation dependence of R2* and LFS in both white and cortical gray matter has a sinusoidal dependence on tissue orientation and a linear dependence on the volume fraction of myelin in the tissue.

A susceptibility processing pipeline was also developed and applied to the calculation of phase-combined LFS and QS maps. The processing pipeline was subsequently used to monitor myelin and iron changes in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients compared to healthy, age and gender-matched controls. With the use of QS and R2* mapping, evidence of statistically significant increases in iron deposition in sub-cortical gray matter, as well as myelin degeneration along the white matter skeleton, were identified in MS patients. The magnetic susceptibility-based MRI methods were then employed as potential clinical biomarkers for disease severity monitoring of MS. It was demonstrated that the combined use of R2* and QS, obtained from multi-echo gradient echo MRI, could serve as an improved metric for monitoring both gray and white matter changes in early MS.


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