Magnetic resonance-based morphometry: a window into structural plasticity of the brain

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Abstract

Purpose of review

In contrast to traditional anatomical and pathological methods, magnetic resonance morphometry of the brain allows the in-vivo study of temporal changes in brain morphology and the correlation of brain morphology with brain function. Magnetic resonance morphometry has thereby recently emerged as one of the most promising fields in clinical neuroscience. This review covers the last 3 years, which have witnessed remarkable progress in this alluring new field.

Recent findings

Next to the detection of structural differences in grey and white matter in a number of brain diseases, a very important recent finding of magnetic resonance-based morphometry is the discovery of the brain's ability to alter its shape within weeks, reflecting structural adaptation to physical and mental activity. Consequently, magnetic resonance morphometry promises to be a powerful method to study disease states of the brain and to track the effects of novel therapies.

Summary

Despite these fascinating prospects, the results of morphometric studies are still dependent on the properties of the individual magnetic resonance scanner, which renders pooling of data almost impossible. It is also not known what the structural plasticity is based on at the histological or cellular level. Once these obstacles are overcome, magnetic resonance-based morphometry will become a powerful method for multicenter and therapeutic trials of several brain diseases.

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