The loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) is well characterized in Parkinson's disease (PD). Recent developments in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques have provided the opportunity to evaluate for changes in cellular density. Longitudinal relaxation measurements in the rotating frame (T1ρ) provide a unique magnetic resonance imaging contrast in vivo. Due to the specificity of T1ρ to water-protein interactions, the T1ρ MRI method has strong potential to be used as a non-invasive method for quantification of neuronal density in the brain. Recently introduced adiabatic T1ρ magnetic resonance imaging mapping methods provide a tool to assess molecular motional regimes with high sensitivity due to utilization of an effective magnetic field sweep during adiabatic pulses. In this work, to investigate the sensitivity of T1ρ to alterations in neuronal density, adiabatic T1ρ MRI measurements were employed in vivo on Pitx3-homeobox gene-deficient aphakia mice in which the deficit of DA neurons in the SNc is well established. The theoretical analysis of T1ρ maps in the different areas of the brain of aphakia mouse suggested variation of the 1H2O rotational correlation times, τc. This suggests τc to be a sensitive indicator for neuronal loss during neurological disorders. The results manifest significant dependencies of the T1ρ relaxations on the cell densities in the SNc, suggesting T1ρ MRI method as a candidate for detection of neuronal loss in neurological disorders.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by NIH BTRR – P41 RR008079, 1R21NS059813, R01NS061866, P30NS057091, R01EB008645 the Keck Foundation and the Mind Institute. We thank Dr. Paul Tuite for helping initiating this project and for his editorial assistance.
- Neuronal loss
- Substantia nigra pars compacta
- T MRI