A tissue-relaxation-dependent neighboring method for robust mapping of the myelin water fraction

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Abstract

Quantitative assessment of the myelin content in white matter (WM) using MRI has become a useful tool for investigating myelin-related diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Myelin water fraction (MWF) maps can be estimated pixel-by-pixel by a determination of the T2 or T2* spectrum from signal decay measurements at each individual image pixel. However, detection of parameters from the measured decay curve, assuming a combination of smooth multi-exponential curves, results in a nonlinear and seriously ill-posed problem. In this paper, we propose a new method to obtain a stable MWF map robust to the presence of noise while sustaining sufficient resolution, which uses weighted combinations of measured decay signals in a spatially independent neighborhood to combine tissues with similar relaxation parameters. To determine optimal weighting factors, we define a spatially independent neighborhood for each pixel and a distance with respect to decay rates that effectively includes pixels with similar decay characteristics, and which therefore have similar relaxation parameters. We recover the MWF values by using optimally weighted decay curves. We use numerical simulations and in vitro and in vivo experimental brain data scanned with a multi-gradient-echo sequence to demonstrate the feasibility of our proposed algorithm and to highlight its advantages compared to the conventional method.

Highlights

▸ Robust estimation of myelin water fraction (MWF) in the presence of severe noise ▸ Efficient noise reduction method without blurring or artificial looks introduced ▸ Tissue-relaxation-dependent neighboring method that minimizes spatial blurring ▸ Filtering based on the similarity of tissue properties, not on pixel intensities ▸ High-resolution MWF map estimation is possible within clinically acceptable time

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