PGSE, OGSE, and sensitivity to axon diameter in diffusion MRI: Insight from a simulation study

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To identify optimal pulsed gradient spin-echo (PGSE) and oscillating gradient spin-echo (OGSE) sequence settings for maximizing sensitivity to axon diameter in idealized and practical conditions.


Simulations on a simple two-compartment white matter model (with nonpermeable cylinders) are used to investigate a wide space of clinically plausible PGSE and OGSE sequence parameters with trapezoidal diffusion gradient waveforms. Signal sensitivity is measured as a derivative of the signal with respect to axon diameter. Models of parallel and dispersed fibers are investigated separately to represent idealized and practical conditions.


Simulations show that, for the simple case of gradients perfectly perpendicular to straight parallel fibers, PGSE always gives maximum sensitivity. However, in real-world scenarios where fibers have unknown and dispersed orientation, low-frequency OGSE provides higher sensitivity. Maximum sensitivity results show that on current clinical scanners (Gmax = 60 mT/m, signal to noise ratio (SNR) = 20) axon diameters below 6 μm are indistinguishable from zero. Scanners with stronger gradient systems such as the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Connectom scanner (Gmax = 300 mT/m) can extend this sensitivity limit down to 2–3 μm, probing a much greater proportion of the underlying axon diameter distribution.


Low-frequency OGSE provides additional sensitivity to PGSE in practical situations. OGSE is particularly advantageous for systems with high performance gradients. Magn Reson Med 75:688–700, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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