PURPOSE: Myelin has long been the target of neuroimaging research. However, most available techniques can only provide a voxel-averaged estimate of myelin content. In the human brain, white matter fiber pathways connecting different brain areas and carrying different functions often cross each other in the same voxel. A measure that can differentiate the degree of myelination of crossing fibers would provide a more specific marker of myelination. THEORY AND METHODS: One MRI signal property that is sensitive to myelin is the phase accumulation. This sensitivity is used by measuring the phase accumulation of the signal remaining after diffusion-weighting, which is called diffusion-prepared phase imaging (DIPPI). Including diffusion-weighting before estimating the phase accumulation has two distinct advantages for estimating the degree of myelination: (1) It increases the relative contribution of intra-axonal water, whose phase is related linearly to the thickness of the surrounding myelin (in particular the log g-ratio); and (2) it gives directional information, which can be used to distinguish between crossing fibers. Here the DIPPI sequence is described, an approach is proposed to estimate the log g-ratio, and simulations are used and DIPPI data acquired in an isotropic phantom to quantify other sources of phase accumulation. RESULTS: The expected bias is estimated in the log g-ratio for reasonable in vivo acquisition parameters caused by eddy currents (~4%-10%), remaining extra-axonal signal (~15%), and gradients in the bulk off-resonance field (<10% for most of the brain). CONCLUSION: This new sequence may provide a g-ratio estimate per fiber population crossing within a voxel.
Magn Reson Med
diffusion MRI, magnetic susceptibility, myelin, phase imaging, white matter