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Eur Radiol (2017) 27:1568–1576

DOI 10.1007/s00330-016-4485-1

MAGNETIC RESONANCE

Evaluation of brain ageing: a quantitative longitudinal MRI study


over 7 years
René-Maxime Gracien 1,2 & Lucas Nürnberger 1,2 & Pavel Hok 1,2,3 &
Stephanie-Michelle Hof 1,2 & Sarah C. Reitz 1,2 & Udo Rüb 4 & Helmuth Steinmetz 1 &
Rüdiger Hilker-Roggendorf 1,2 & Johannes C. Klein 1,2,5 & Ralf Deichmann 2 &
Simon Baudrexel 1,2

Received: 24 March 2016 / Revised: 27 May 2016 / Accepted: 21 June 2016 / Published online: 5 July 2016
# European Society of Radiology 2016

Abstract Results The analysis revealed a decrease of mean cortical T1


Objectives T1 relaxometry is a promising tool for the assess- values over 7 years, the rate of T1 reduction being more prom-
ment of microstructural changes during brain ageing. Previous inent in subjects with higher age. T1 decreases were predom-
cross-sectional studies demonstrated increasing T1 values in inantly localized in the lateral frontal, parietal and temporal
white and decreasing T1 values in grey matter over the life- cortex. In contrast, mean white matter T1 values remained
time. However, these findings have not yet been confirmed on stable.
the basis of a longitudinal study. In this longitudinal study Conclusions T1 mapping is shown to be sensitive to age-
over 7 years, T1 relaxometry was used to investigate the dy- related microstructural changes in healthy ageing subjects in
namics of age-related microstructural changes in older healthy a longitudinal setting. Data of a cohort in late adulthood and
subjects. the senescence period demonstrate a decrease of cortical T1
Methods T1 mapping was performed in 17 healthy subjects values over 7 years, most likely reflecting decreasing water
(range 51–77 years) at baseline and after 7 years. Advanced content and increased iron concentrations.
cortical and white matter segmentation was used to determine Key Points
mean T1 values in the cortex and white matter. • T1 mapping is sensitive to age-related microstructural
changes in a longitudinal setting.
• T1 decreases were predominantly localized in the lateral
frontal, parietal and temporal cortex.
René-Maxime Gracien and Lucas Nürnberger contributed equally to this • The rate of T1 reduction was more prominent in subjects
work. with higher age.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
• These changes most likely reflect decreasing cortical water
(doi:10.1007/s00330-016-4485-1) contains supplementary material, and increasing iron concentrations.
which is available to authorized users.
Keywords Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging . T1
* René-Maxime Gracien relaxation . Ageing . Cerebral cortex . White matter
Rene-Maxime.Gracien@kgu.de

1
Department of Neurology, Goethe University, Frankfurt/ Abbreviations
Main, Germany CSF Cerebrospinal fluid
2
Brain Imaging Center, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany FSL FMRIB Software Library
3
Department of Neurology, Palacky University, GE Gradient echo
Olomouc, Czech Republic GM Grey matter
4
Dr. Senckenberg Chronomedical Institute, Goethe University, MNI Montreal Neurological Institute
Frankfurt/Main, Germany MP-RAGE Magnetization-prepared rapid gradient-echo
5
Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of MRI Magnetic resonance imaging
Oxford, Oxford, UK qMRI Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging
Eur Radiol (2017) 27:1568–1576 1569

RF Radio frequency the inherent shortcomings of a cross-sectional design, which


ROI Region of interest may yield biased results due to the relatively large interindi-
WM White matter vidual variability of T1 values and also generation effects.
A previous longitudinal study over a 5-year period which
primarily focused on multiple sclerosis patients failed to detect
Introduction T1 changes in the GM and WM of the healthy control group
[23]. However, the mean age of study participants was 36.7
Understanding the processes of human brain ageing has be- ± 8.4 years, which does not represent the critical life period
come an important research field. Life expectancy is continu- (>60 years) when the effects of normal ageing on brain func-
ously increasing in our societies and mental capabilities are tion, e.g. on cognition or motor function, start to become de-
one of the most important factors for an individual’s quality of tectable. It is therefore desirable to specifically investigate the
life in the senescence period [1]. Understanding healthy brain evolution of T1 in an older cohort.
ageing might help to clarify when and under which conditions Here, we use an established qMRI technique for quantita-
normal brain ageing diverges into pre-pathological neurode- tive T1 mapping [24] in combination with advanced cortical
generation and, possibly, how to prevent the latter [2]. GM and WM segmentation procedures [25] to investigate T1
Structural brain imaging of cortical grey (GM) and white changes in a longitudinal study over 7 years to assess healthy
matter (WM) is a suitable tool to track age-associated changes ageing with a focus on the 5th to 8th decades. According to the
in vivo. Studies using conventional magnetic resonance imag- results of previous cross-sectional studies, which demonstrat-
ing (MRI) techniques revealed characteristic patterns of corti- ed decreasing cortical [17–20] and increasing WM T1 values
cal thinning [3], regional atrophy [4] and alterations in surface [17, 18, 21, 22] during ageing in late life periods, we also
morphometry [5]. However, images acquired via conventional expected a homogenous T1 decline in cortical GM and a T1
MRI techniques are based on mixed signal contrasts and, thus, increase in WM.
only allow very limited insights into the underlying micro-
structural tissue processes [6].
In contrast, quantitative MRI (qMRI) enables the calcula- Materials and methods
tion of well-defined physical parameters, such as the relaxa-
tion times T1 and T2*, or the proton density independent from Participants
specific hardware parameters [7]. As qMRI parameters can be
more specifically related to biophysiological processes, they Twenty healthy subjects (11 female) were initially recruited
can provide valuable information about tissue composition for the study. Exclusion criteria were neurological/psychiatric
and changes in both GM and WM during ageing [6, 8]. disease, structural brain lesion, alcohol/substance abuse, se-
The longitudinal relaxation time (T1) of a given brain voxel vere arterial hypertension or diabetes mellitus, as assessed
is generally thought to be dependent on the microstructural by systematic history evaluation and clinical examination.
properties of the underlying tissue such as water content, cell Written informed consent was given, and the study was ap-
and dendritic density, degree of myelination and iron content proved by the institutional review board.
[9–12]. From a histological point of view, ageing is associated Three subjects had to be excluded because of MRI artefacts
with regression of the neuropil, synaptic degeneration, axonal or exclusion criteria that occurred during the duration of the
demyelination, iron accumulation and a reduction in cerebral study. Data of 17 subjects (eight female) were further
water content [13–16]. Since all these processes affect the analysed. Baseline data were used for group comparisons in
longitudinal relaxation time T1, this parameter can be consid- a previous study [26].
ered a promising marker for the investigation of brain ageing
processes. Longitudinal measurements of T1 in older healthy T1 mapping and calculation of the synthetic MP-RAGE
subjects could thus provide useful baseline information which data set
might be important to disentangle normal from pathological
brain ageing. Subjects participated in two MRI scans at an interval of
Several previous cross-sectional studies have analysed T1 7 years.
in GM and WM regions of subjects of different age. The For each time point, T1 mapping was performed identically
respective studies could demonstrate an age-related T1 de- on a 3-T MR scanner system (Magnetom Trio, Siemens
crease in cortical GM in late life periods [17–20]. With respect Medical Solutions, Erlangen, Germany) using an eight-
to WM a T1 increase was consistently shown for older partic- channel phased-array head coil for signal reception and a
ipants [17, 18, 21, 22]. whole body coil for radio frequency (RF) transmission. T1
However, a longitudinal study design is required to assess maps were calculated offline using custom-built scripts writ-
the evolution of age-related T1 changes, as it avoids some of ten for MATLAB (The MathWorks Inc., Natick, MA, USA).
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The T1 mapping method applied in this study was de- images, the cortical PVE maps were applied to the T1 maps
scribed earlier [24]. In summary, T1 mapping required the and mean cortical T1 values were subsequently extracted. It
acquisition of two RF-spoiled three-dimensional (3D) gradi- has to be mentioned that the rigid body registration with six
ent echo (GE) data sets with different flip angles (4° and 18°). degrees of freedom of MP-RAGE images to MNI space be-
Acquisition parameters were TR/TE = 7.6 ms/2.4 ms, matrix fore performing the segmentation was a necessary step to en-
size = 256 × 224 × 160, isotropic spatial resolution = 1 mm, sure similar postprocessing conditions, i.e. that of a necessary
band width = 206 Hz/pixel, scan duration = 9:05 min. T1 coregistration for both T1 maps. If the segmentation had been
values were calculated from contrast differences as described performed in the native space of the second image without
elsewhere [27]. T1 maps were corrected on the basis of an normalizing the head position, coregistration of the T1 maps
additionally obtained B1 field map (duration 4:51 min) to to the synthetic anatomies would have been required for the
account for spatial inhomogeneities in RF transmission [28]. images of the first time point only. This might have systemat-
Stability and accuracy were improved by optimizing the RF ically affected the results because of a possible registration
phase increment and furthermore by correcting for the effects bias.
of incomplete spoiling according to Preibisch and Deichmann Because of the high heterogeneity of T1 values across the
[24]. The analysis of a repeated in vivo measurement revealed cortical volume even in healthy persons [25], absolute cortical
a low scan–rescan variability of 2–3 % (coefficient of varia- T1 changes were obtained by calculating the difference of the
tion), rendering the T1 mapping technique suitable for longi- mean cortical T1 values of both time points for each partici-
tudinal studies [24]. pant. Spearman’s rank coefficients of correlation were used to
For the second time point, additional synthetic anatomical assess the relationship between T1 change over 7 years (sec-
MP-RAGE data sets with pure T1 weighting without RF bias ond value minus first value) and age.
were calculated solely from the quantitative T1 maps as de- Furthermore, to investigate T1 changes in deep GM, a
scribed elsewhere [29] using the following parameters: isotro- combined mask of the caudate nucleus, putamen, globus
pic spatial resolution = 1 mm, field-of-view as above, pallidus and thalamus was obtained as described elsewhere
TR = 1900 ms, TI = 900 ms, α = 9°. [32] from the synthetic MP-RAGEnorm, identifying the respec-
The MP-RAGE data served as basis for the following tive regions with FSL BFIRST^ and performing an erosion
postprocessing and segmentation procedures using FMRIB with a 3 × 3 × 3 mm kernel to avoid partial voluming. Mean
Software Library (FSL) and SPM, as these programs are op- T1 values were extracted by applying this deep GM mask and
timized for this kind of image contrast. also for a mask combining cortical and deep GM to the T1
maps which had been taken to the space of the MP-RAGEnorm
Data postprocessing and analysis data sets.
To additionally investigate T1 changes of WM on an ROI
Custom-built scripts using the FSL [30], SPM (Wellcome basis, 3D WM masks were derived from the WM PVE maps
Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of calculated with BFAST^ based on the MP-RAGEnorm data
Neurology, UCL, London, UK, available at http://www.fil. sets. To avoid partial voluming with GM and cerebrospinal
ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm) and MATLAB were applied for further fluid (CSF) compartments, the outermost voxels of the respec-
data processing. tive WM ROIs were eroded using a 6 × 6 × 6 mm kernel. For
The longitudinal change of cortical T1 was assessed with better comparison with a previous study, an additional ROI
region of interest (ROI) and voxel-based statistics. For ROI- was manually placed into the frontal WM as described else-
based analyses, cortical volume was defined on the basis of where [18]. The WM masks were then applied to the T1 maps
the synthetic MP-RAGE images (i.e. those derived from T1 which had been coregistered to the MP-RAGEnorm data sets
maps of the second time point): After brain extraction, MP- and mean WM T1 values were obtained for both WM ROIs
RAGE images were registered into Montreal Neurological and both time points.
Institute (MNI) 152 standard space using the rigid body trans- Statistical analyses were carried out with SPSS for
formation with six degrees of freedom implemented in Windows (20.0.0). Non-parametric testing was used (paired
BFLIRT^ to normalize the head position. The respective data sample Wilcoxon signed-rank test) for comparisons of the
sets (MP-RAGEnorm) were used for all further tissue segmen- respective mean parameter values in WM and GM of both
tation procedures. time points.
GM segmentation was performed with the FSL tool For the voxel-based analysis of cortical T1 change, T1
BFAST^ [31]. The GM maps were utilized to identify the maps of both time points were segmented with SPMs BNew
cortical volume by removing voxels with a PVE less than Segment^. The resulting GM PVE maps were thresholded
0.95 and voxels belonging to non-cortical structures by apply- using PVE greater than 0.95 and used to mask the T1 maps.
ing standard space masks [25]. The T1 maps of both time GM T1 maps were normalized to MNI space using the trans-
points were then coregistered to the synthetic MP-RAGEnorm formations generated with BDartel^. The option Bno
Eur Radiol (2017) 27:1568–1576 1571

modulation^ was used for normalization. GM T1 maps were average T1 value at baseline measurement) plotted against
then smoothed with an 8-mm isotropic Gaussian kernel. the subjects’ age at baseline. The T1 decrease was negatively
Voxels displaying T1 values less than 100 ms for at least correlated with age (r = −0.59, p = 0.012, Spearman rank co-
one subject were excluded from further analysis. Statistical efficient of correlation) indicating a higher T1 decrease with
comparison of GM T1 maps between both time points was higher age.
performed with paired t tests using FSL Brandomise^ with Clusters of significant cortical T1 decrease are displayed in
5000 permutations [33]. The thresholding with correction for Fig. 4. The pattern of T1 decrease was widespread and most
multiple comparisons was performed using threshold-free prominent in lateral frontal, temporal and parietal areas.
cluster enhancement. Significant cortical clusters were plotted Significant increases of cortical T1 could not be detected.
on the surface of the MNI 152 standard brain with BMRIcron^, T1 decrease could also be observed in the combined (corti-
using a search depth of 16 voxels [34]. cal and deep) GM ROI (p = 0.044, baseline 1649.8 ± 68.55 ms,
To compare the pattern of cortical T1 changes with the follow-up 1616.6 ± 52.80 ms), but not in deep GM (p = 0.62,
changes in cortical thickness, an additional segmentation with baseline 1365.8 ± 52.35 ms, follow-up 1358.2 ± 59.40 ms).
Freesurfer was performed [35, 36] using the longitudinal pro- Results of the Freesurfer analysis are presented in Fig. 5.
cessing stream [37]. The GE image acquired with the higher Clusters with significantly decreasing cortical thickness are
excitation angle of 18° served as input image since it produced indicated by the coloured overlays. The atrophy pattern differs
the most robust results. Cortical thickness values for each time somewhat from the observed T1 changes and also included
point were projected onto an average surface and smoothed mesiofrontal, inferior temporal and more occipital areas. The
with a Gaussian kernel with a full width at half maximum of rate of average cortical thickness reduction amounted to
5 mm. BMri_glmfit^ (Freesurfer) was used to calculate paired 0.010 ± 0.0135 mm/year.
t test statistics between both time points to identify significant
clusters indicating a decreased cortical thickness after correc-
tion for multiple comparisons. Discussion
P values below 0.05 were considered significant for all
statistical tests. The goal of this study was to investigate the natural course of
T1 relaxation time changes during physiological brain ageing
in healthy subjects who are in a critical age period (age 65.2
Results ± 6.33 years) with increasing incidence of pathological neuro-
degeneration for which it is of particular interest to know the
Across the 17 healthy participants (eight female), the average course and extent of physiological microstructural changes.
age at which the first MRI scan was performed was 65.2 To this end, an established method for T1 mapping was per-
± 6.33 years (mean ± standard deviation, range 51–77 years). formed in a longitudinal study with measurements at baseline
Figure 1 shows transversal sections of the synthetic MP- and after 7 years. Data analysis was conducted using different
RAGE data (top row) and the T1 map (bottom row) for a GM and WM segmentation strategies. T1 was chosen as the
representative subject (MNI space, z coordinates = −2, 10, parameter of interest since its value is influenced by different
22). The GM and WM ROIs identified by the algorithm de- cyto- and myelo-architectonical changes which are known to
scribed above are indicated in red and green, respectively, and occur during normal brain ageing [7].
superimposed onto the synthetic MP-RAGE image. The man- The main finding of the study was a significant decrease of
ually placed WM ROI is indicated in blue. Figure 2 shows box cortical T1 values over 7 years (Fig. 2), which was more
plots (median, upper and lower quartile and 95 % confidence prominent at higher ages (Fig. 3), suggesting an age-driven
interval (CI)) of the mean T1 values for the cortical GM (a) acceleration of the underlying microstructural processes.
and the large WM ROIs (b) for all subjects and both time Spatial visualization of significant T1 decreases revealed a
points. Mean cortical T1 decreased significantly over time predominant frontotemporal pattern also affecting parts of
(p = 0.039, rate 5.1 ± 7.81 ms/year) while WM T1 remained the parietal lobe (Fig. 4), corroborating the concept of regional
stable (p = 0.38). Average T1 values across the small frontal selectivity in healthy brain ageing. Cortical T1 decrease was
WM ROI also failed to show significant changes over time confirmed with two different approaches, applying the cortical
(p = 0.59, baseline 1032.8 ± 64.87 ms, follow-up 1036.8 maps of the second time point to both T1 maps acquired at an
± 79.15 ms). interval of 7 years and performing a separate segmentation for
Supplementary Fig. 1 demonstrates T1 maps and the re- both time points.
spective normalized histograms at baseline and follow-up for Our finding of a significant GM T1 decrease in the cortex is
one representative participant. in line with several previous cross-sectional studies [17–20, 38].
Figure 3 shows individual changes of mean cortical T1 A continuous decrease of cortical GM T1 over the whole
(expressed as the average T1 value at follow-up minus the lifespan has been suggested [17, 18]. However, since T1
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Fig. 1 Cortical ROI (red), white


matter volume ROI (green) and
manually placed white matter
ROI (blue) of a representative
subject projected onto the
calculated synthetic MP-RAGE
data (top). The corresponding T1
map is shown at the bottom of the
figure. All data are presented for
three transversal slices in MNI
152 standard space (z = −2, 10,
22)

values were extracted from a single cortical ROI, the gen- It should be noted that in contrast to these previous inves-
eralization of the results to the whole cortex might not be tigations the results presented here are based on a longitudinal
possible because of the regional heterogeneity of age- study design, which allowed for a more powerful detection of
related cortical changes (Fig. 4). Other investigations T1 changes based on paired t test statistics.
assessed the age dependence of the whole GM and reported In contrast to our results, longitudinal data published by
a linear decrease of GM T1 over the lifetime [19, 20, 38]. Papadopoulos et al. [23] did not show any significant T1 de-
However, these studies did not distinguish between cortical creases in the cortical GM. However, considerably younger
and subcortical GM in their analysis. Since an increase of subjects were included in the respective study (mainly 4th
T1 in basal ganglia nuclei has been found in older subjects decade) and a rather coarse slice thickness of 5 mm was used,
[17, 18], the rate of cortical T1 decrease may have been which may have influenced the results because of partial
underestimated. voluming.

Fig. 2 Box plots (median, upper


and lower quartile and 95 %
confidence interval) of mean T1
relaxation times of the cortex (a)
and the white matter volume (b)
for both time points (baseline and
7 year follow-up)
Eur Radiol (2017) 27:1568–1576 1573

related to regression of the dendrites rather than neuronal


death [14].
Another candidate mechanism for the observed T1 de-
crease is iron deposition [39]. Age-related T2* decreases were
found in extensive regions of the human cortex [40], most
likely reflecting iron accumulation [41]. Cortical iron increase
during ageing was also shown by histopathological analysis
[16] and age-related alterations of iron storage in glia cells
were described by Connor et al. [42].
However, it has to be kept in mind, that other changes of
tissue microarchitecture have opposing effects on the T1
relaxation time. T1 relaxation time is also a parameter close-
ly related to myelin [9], as it is influenced by differences in
lipids and myelin-bound water [7, 43, 44]. In particular, it
Fig. 3 Cortical T1 change over time plotted against the subjects’ age at has been demonstrated that cortical myelination is gradually
baseline reduced with advancing age [45]. Accordingly, the increas-
ing T1 values observed for a few participants might be ex-
The question arises which biological mechanisms cause the plained by predominating demyelination [46, 47], but T1-
decline of cortical T1. According to theory, T1 of brain tissue decreasing mechanisms may outweigh this mechanism at
is mainly determined by the following components: (i) the group level.
water content, (ii) the concentrations and types of macromol- While T1 decrease could be observed in the cortical and the
ecules which in turn influence the water content, and (iii) the combined GM ROI, no T1 changes could be demonstrated for
iron content [10–12]. A strong positive linear relationship ex- the deep GM. Previous cross-sectional studies suggested that
ists between T1 and water content [10], whereas T1 and iron deep GM T1 increases at higher ages [17, 18]. The results
content are negatively correlated [12]. presented here indicate that microstructural changes might
On this basis, we propose that an overall decrease in water differ between the cortex and deep grey matter. As iron depo-
content, most likely mediated via changes in the macromolec- sition is more prominent in deep GM [16] mechanisms that
ular composition of tissue, and an increase in iron levels are prolong T1, such as demyelination and increased concentra-
the two main contributors to the observed decrease in cortical tions of vascular lesions or widened perivascular spaces,
T1. The former part of our hypothesis is heavily supported by might counterbalance the T1 shortening caused by iron depo-
a previous study in which a sophisticated water mapping tech- sition in deep GM.
nique was used to demonstrate a continuous decline in GM We did not find a significant T1 increase in whole WM
water content during physiological ageing [15]. This finding is analysis (Fig. 2), and also not when applying a similar WM
at first sight counterintuitive as one would expect a decrease of ROI as ref. [18] (Fig. 1). At first sight, this result is conflicting
cellular GM components due to neurodegeneration and thus with previous studies showing a T1 increase [17, 18, 48].
an increase in the cortical water content. In fact, it has mean- However efforts were made in the present study to avoid par-
while been shown by various histological studies that the tial voluming of the WM ROI with surrounding structures and
amount of neurons remains more or less stable during physi- subcortical atherosclerotic lesions. Inclusion of such lesions
ological ageing [13, 14]. This implies an increase in neuronal with higher T1 values in the WM ROI in previous studies
density during cortical volume loss, which seems to be more might explain the different results.

Fig. 4 Cortical projection of


clusters indicating significant T1
reductions
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Fig. 5 Cortical projection of


clusters indicating significant
reductions in cortical thickness

The cortical thickness analysis as displayed in Fig. 5 re- Acknowledgments The scientific guarantor of this publication is
Simon Baudrexel. The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships
vealed a widespread and rather global pattern of cortical atro-
with any companies relevant to this study:
phy over time, which appears to be accentuated in frontal, Dr R.M. Gracien has received travel funding from Roche.
temporal and some parietal regions, which is in good agree- Dr L. Nürnberger has received travel funding from TEVA, Allergan
ment with several previous volumetric studies [2–4, 49, 50]. and Dysport.
Dr P. Hok was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service
This indicates a normal rate and pattern of cortical atrophy in
(DAAD).
our study cohort. The cortical T1 decrease was focused in Dr Rüb has received funding from Dr. Senckenbergische Stiftung,
mainly lateral frontal, temporal and parietal areas, whereas Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
atrophy affected also mesiofrontal, inferior temporal and more Dr H. Steinmetz has received speaker’s honoraria from Bayer, Sanofi
and Boehringer Ingelheim.
occipital areas, indicating that there might not be a one to one Dr R. Hilker-Roggendorf has received speaker honoraria from
correspondence between the tissue changes underlying T1 Medtronic, Orion, GlaxoSmithKline, TEVA, Cephalon, Solvay, Desitin,
reductions and those underlying manifest atrophy. and Boehringer Ingelheim as well as travel funding from Medtronic and
As demonstrated in this pilot study, longitudinal T1 map- Cephalon. He serves or has served on a scientific advisory board for
Cephalon and has received research funding from the Deutsche
ping unveils a specific pattern of microstructural change in Parkinson Vereinigung (dPV), Bundesministerium für Bildung und
cortical GM associated with ageing in older people. This find- Forschung and Goethe-University Frankfurt.
ing may encourage future population-based studies to more Dr J.C. Klein received speaker honoraria and travel reimbursement
specifically investigate the dynamics of this pattern by from Medtronic, AstraZeneca, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie.
Dr R. Deichmann received compensation as a Consultant for MR
performing measurements at multiple time points and, impor- scanner procurement by the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging,
tantly, to investigate the cognitive correlates of T1 change on UCL, London, UK.
an individual basis. A multiparameter approach combining T1 Dr S. Baudrexel has received research funding from the
mapping with other qMRI techniques, such as T2, proton Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and travel funding from
UCB Pharma.
density and myelin mapping, is required to further disentangle This study has received funding by the Bundesministerium für
the effects of ageing on different microstructural compart- Bildung und Forschung [DLR 01GO0203; Brain Imaging Center
ments and, also, for the search for patterns that may express Frankfurt] and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [DFG CRC-TR
the transition from healthy to pathological ageing. 128; Dr Deichmann].
One of the authors has significant statistical expertise.
In summary, T1 mapping affords insights into changes of Institutional review board approval was obtained.
the tissue architecture during physiological ageing and dem- Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects in this study.
onstrates a cortical GM T1 decrease accentuated in the lateral Data from some study subjects have been previously reported in
frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. These changes most likely Baudrexel S, Nürnberger L et al. Quantitative mapping of T1 and T2*
discloses nigral and brainstem pathology in early Parkinson’s disease.
reflect a decreasing cortical water content and increasing iron NeuroImage 2010; 51(2):512–20.
concentrations which may outweigh T1-increasing effects Methodology: prospective, observational study performed at one
such as age-dependent reductions in cortical myelination. institution.
Eur Radiol (2017) 27:1568–1576 1575

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