Modelling and interpretation of magnetization transfer imaging in the brain

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Magnetization transfer contrast has yielded insight into brain tissue microstructure changes across the lifespan and in a range of disorders. This progress has been aided by the development of quantitative magnetization transfer imaging techniques able to extract intrinsic properties of the tissue that are independent of the specifics of the data acquisition. While the tissue properties extracted by these techniques do not map directly onto specific cellular structures or pathological processes, a growing body of work from animal models and histopathological correlations aids the in vivo interpretation of magnetization transfer properties of tissue. This review examines the biophysical models that have been developed to describe magnetization transfer contrast in tissue as well as the experimental evidence for the biological interpretation of magnetization transfer data in health and disease.

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