Can 7T MPRAGE match MP2RAGE for gray-white matter contrast?

Ícaro A F Oliveira, Thomas Roos, Serge O Dumoulin, Jeroen C W Siero, Wietske van der Zwaag

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Abstract

Ultra-high field (UHF) MRI provides a significant increase in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and gains in contrast weighting in several functional and structural acquisitions. Unfortunately, an increase in field strength also induces non-uniformities in the transmit field (B1+) that can compromise image contrast nonuniformly. The MPRAGE is one of the most common T1 weighted (T1w) image acquisitions for structural imaging. It provides excellent contrast between gray and white matter and is widely used for brain segmentation. At 7T, the signal non-uniformities tend to complicate this and therefore, the self-bias-field corrected MP2RAGE is often used there. In both MPRAGE and MP2RAGE, more homogeneous image contrast can be achieved with adiabatic pulses, like the TR-FOCI inversion pulse, or special pulse design on parallel transmission systems, like Universal Pulses (UP). In the present study, we investigate different strategies to improve the bias-field for MPRAGE at 7T, comparing the contrast and GM/WM segmentability against MP2RAGE. The higher temporal efficiency of MPRAGE combined with the potential of the user-friendly UPs was the primary motivation for this MPRAGE-MP2RAGE comparison. We acquired MPRAGE data in six volunteers, adding a k-space shutter to reduce scan time, a kt-point UP approach for homogeneous signal excitation, and a TR-FOCI pulse for homogeneous inversion. Our results show remarkable signal contrast improvement throughout the brain, including regions of low B1+ such as the cerebellum. The improvements in the MPRAGE were largest following the introduction of the UPs. In addition to the CNR, both SNR and GM/WM segmentability were also assessed. Among the MPRAGEs, the combined strategy (UP + TR-FOCI) yielded highest SNR and showed highest spatial similarity between GM segments to the MP2RAGE. Interestingly, the distance between gray and white matter peaks in the intensity histograms did not increase, as better pulses and higher SNR especially benefitted the (cerebellar) gray matter. Overall, the gray-white matter contrast from MP2RAGE is higher, with higher CNR and higher intensity peak distances, even when scaled to scan time. Hence, the extra acquisition time for MP2RAGE is justified by the improved segmentability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118384
JournalNeuroImage
Volume240
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2021

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