“Stunning” Brain Movement Detail Possible with 3D Amplified MRI

Real-time visualization of brain movement can help radiologists identify hard-to-detect brain conditions.

Recent research with MRI has kicked neuroimaging up a notch. With recent developments, investigators can now see real-time brain movement in exceptional detail.

Typically, MRI is used to capture static brain images, but with 3D amplified MRI (3D aMRI), researchers can see pulsations of the brain. Being able to see these movements could help providers pick up on hard-to-detect conditions, such as obstructive brain disorders and aneurysms, before they become fatal.

In two studies published this week – in Magnetic Resonance in Medicineand Brain Multiphysicsresearchers from Stanford University, the University of Auckland, and other institutions not only compared 3D aMRI to the existing 2D technology, but they also demonstrated how the software effectively captures brain movement.

Overall, the team said, this method, which can visualize brain movements the width of a human hair, could allow providers to non-invasively see brain disorders – a benefit that could lead to better treatment strategies for tiny deformations or disorders that obstruct or block the flow of brain fluids. You can see a video of 3D aMRI here.

“The new method magnifies microscopic rhythmic pulsations of the brain as the heart beats to allow the visualization of minute piston-like movements, that are less than the width of a human hair,” said Itamar Terem, a Stanford graduate student who is lead author on the Magnetic Resonance in Medicine paper. “The new 3D version provides a larger magnification factor, which gives us better visibility of brain motions, and better accuracy.”

For their study, the team enrolled seven healthy male and female volunteers between ages 24 and 65 and conducted 3T MRI scans. They, then, compared 3D a MRI to 2D aMRI on multi-slice and 3D balanced steady-state free precession cine data and phase contrast (PC-MRI).

Their results showed 3D aMRI produces better image quality and fewer motion artifacts compared to 2D aMRI, the team said, and tissue motion matched PC-MRI. In addition, optical flow maps captured brain tissue motion and displayed physical changes to ventricle shapes, and 4D animations reveal complete brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid motion.

Investigators have already employed this technique in assessing how mild traumatic brain injury impacts the brain. In addition, they are looking at whether combining 3D aMRI and brain modeling can open the door to effectively measuring brain pressure. Doing so could help patients avoid surgery.

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