G72 (syn. DAOA, D-amino acid oxidase activator) is a susceptibility gene for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Diffusion tensor imaging studies hint at changes in fiber tract integrity in both disorders. We aimed to investigate whether a G72 susceptibility haplotype causes changes in fiber tract integrity in young healthy subjects. We compared fractional anisotropy in 47 subjects that were either homozygous for the M23/M24 risk haplotype (n = 20) or homozygous for M23(rs3918342)/M24(rs1421292) wild type (n = 27) using diffusion tensor imaging with 3 T. Tract-based spatial statistics, a method especially developed for diffusion data analysis, was used to delineate the major fiber tracts. We found clusters of increased FA values in homozygous risk haplotype carriers in the right periinsular region and in the right inferior parietal lobe (IPL). We did not find clusters indicating decreased FA values. The insula and the IPL have been implicated in both schizophrenia and bipolar pathophysiology. Increased FA values might reflect changes in dendritic morphology as previously described by in vitro studies. These findings further corroborate the hypothesis that a shared gene pool between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder might lead to neuroanatomic changes that confer an unspecific vulnerability for both disorders.
Changes in fiber tract architecture have gained attention as a potentially important aspect of schizophrenia neuropathology. Although the exact pathogenesis of these abnormalities yet remains to be elucidated, a genetic component is highly likely. Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) is one of the best-validated schizophrenia susceptibility genes. We here report the impact of the Neuregulin-1 rs35753505 variant on white matter structure in healthy young individuals with no family history of psychosis.
Implementation of an accelerated Magnetization Prepared RApid Gradient Echo (MP-RAGE) sequence for T1 weighted neuroimaging; exploiting modern MRI technologies to minimize scan time while preserving the image quality.
The ongoing 1000 brains study (1000BRAINS) is an epidemiological and neuroscientific investigation of structural and functional variability in the human brain during aging. The two recruitment sources are the 10-year follow-up cohort of the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) Study, and the HNR MultiGeneration Study cohort, which comprises spouses and offspring of HNR subjects. The HNR is a longitudinal epidemiological investigation of cardiovascular risk factors, with a comprehensive collection of clinical, laboratory, socioeconomic, and environmental data from population-based subjects aged 45-75 years on inclusion. HNR subjects underwent detailed assessments in 2000, 2006, and 2011, and completed annual postal questionnaires on health status. 1000BRAINS accesses these HNR data and applies a separate protocol comprising: neuropsychological tests of attention, memory, executive functions and language; examination of motor skills; ratings of personality, life quality, mood and daily activities; analysis of laboratory and genetic data; and state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, 3 Tesla) of the brain. The latter includes (i) 3D-T1- and 3D-T2-weighted scans for structural analyses and myelin mapping; (ii) three diffusion imaging sequences optimized for diffusion tensor imaging, high-angular resolution diffusion imaging for detailed fiber tracking and for diffusion kurtosis imaging; (iii) resting-state and task-based functional MRI; and (iv) fluid-attenuated inversion recovery and MR angiography for the detection of vascular lesions and the mapping of white matter lesions. The unique design of 1000BRAINS allows: (i) comprehensive investigation of various influences including genetics, environment and health status on variability in brain structure and function during aging; and (ii) identification of the impact of selected influencing factors on specific cognitive subsystems and their anatomical correlates.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder with the core phenomenon of tics, whose origin and temporal pattern are unclear. We investigated the When and Where of tic generation and resting state networks (RSNs) via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The mapping of MR relaxation times and proton density has been the subject of research in medical imaging for many years, as it offers the possibility for longitudinal investigation of disease and the correlation with related biochemical processes. The purpose of this study is to provide a fast mapping protocol, which simultaneously acquires MR relaxation times and relative proton density without compromising accuracy and precision.
Attributions are constantly assigned in everyday life. A well-known phenomenon is the self-serving bias: that is, peoples tendency to attribute positive events to internal causes (themselves) and negative events to external causes (other persons/circumstances). Here, we investigated the neural correlates of the cognitive processes implicated in self-serving attributions using social situations that differed in their emotional saliences. We administered an attributional bias task during fMRI scanning in a large sample of healthy subjects (n = 71). Eighty sentences describing positive or negative social situations were presented, and subjects decided via buttonpress whether the situation had been caused by themselves or by the other person involved. Comparing positive with negative sentences revealed activations of the bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Self-attribution correlated with activation of the posterior portion of the precuneus. However, self-attributed positive versus negative sentences showed activation of the anterior portion of the precuneus, and self-attributed negative versus positive sentences demonstrated activation of the bilateral insular cortex. All significant activations were reported with a statistical threshold of p ? .001, uncorrected. In addition, a comparison of our fMRI task with data from the Internal, Personal and Situational Attributions Questionnaire, Revised German Version, demonstrated convergent validity. Our findings suggest that the precuneus and the PCC are involved in the evaluation of social events with particular regional specificities: The PCC is activated during emotional evaluation, the posterior precuneus during attributional evaluation, and the anterior precuneus during self-serving processes. Furthermore, we assume that insula activation is a correlate of awareness of personal agency in negative situations.
Schizophrenia is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder with high heritability, though its exact etiopathogenesis is yet unknown. An increasing number of studies point to the importance of white matter anomalies in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. While several studies have identified the impact of schizophrenia susceptibility gene variants on gray matter anatomy in both schizophrenia patients and healthy risk variant carriers, studies dealing with the impact of these gene variants on white matter integrity are still scarce. We here present a study on the effects of a Dysbindin schizophrenia susceptibility gene variant on fiber tract integrity in healthy young subjects. 101 subjects genotyped for Dysbindin-gene variant rs1018381, though without personal or first degree relative history of psychiatric disorders underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), 83 of them were included in the final analysis. We used Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) analysis to delineate the major fiber tracts. Carriers of the minor allele T of the rs1018381 in the Dysbindin gene showed two clusters of reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) values in the perihippocampal region of the right temporal lobe compared to homozygote carriers of the major allele C. Clusters of increased FA values in T-allele carriers were found in the left prefrontal white matter, the right fornix, the right midbrain area, the left callosal body, the left cerebellum and in proximity of the right superior medial gyrus. Dysbindin has been implicated in neurite outgrowth and morphology. Impairments in anatomic connectivity as found associated with the minor Dysbindin allele in our study may result in increased risk for schizophrenia due to altered fiber tracts.
This work utilises general numerical magnetic resonance imaging MRI simulations to predict the spatial specificity of the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) functional MRI (fMRI) signal. A Monte Carlo simulation approach was utilized on a microvascular structure consisting of randomly oriented cylinders representing blood vessels. This framework was employed to numerically investigate the spatial specificity, defined as ratio of pial vessel to microvascular signal, of the spin echo BOLD fMRI signal as a function of field strength, echo time and tissue types [grey matter (GM) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), respectively]. Spatial specificity of spin echo BOLD fMRI signal was determined to increase with field strength up to 16 T and with maximal specificity for echo time shorter than tissue T(2). In addition, it was found that, for large pial vessels, the extravascular signal decay could not be described using the oversimplified but nevertheless commonly employed mono-exponential signal decay approximation (MEA). Consequently, a recently proposed model relying on the MEA deviates substantially from our results on the spatial specificity. A refinement of this model is proposed based on an available, more detailed signal description. Finally, the effect of CSF on the spatial specificity was investigated. While a large spatial specificity of the spin echo BOLD fMRI signal is observed if a pial vessel is surrounded by grey matter, this is greatly reduced for a pial vessel situated on a GM/CSF interface, rendering the suppression of pial vessels on the cortex surface unlikely.
Empty nose syndrome (ENS) patients have a persistent sense of impaired nasal patency despite radical resection of nasal turbinates. The aim of this study was to elucidate differences in cerebral activation during free breathing and after inhalation of a fragrance (lemonene) and a pseudodecongestant (menthol) over a nasofacial mask. Our hypothesis was that menthol would be perceived as beneficial and that cerebral activation would show differences in areas corresponding to emotional suffering and air hunger in ENS patients.
Tourettes syndrome (TS) is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics as well as psychiatric comorbidities. Disturbances of the fronto-striatal-thalamic pathways responsible for motor control and impulse inhibition have been previously described in other studies. Although differences in motor performance are well recognized, imaging data elucidating the neuronal correlates are scarce. Here, we examined 19 adult TS patients (13 men, aged 22-52 years, mean = 34.3 years) and 18 age- and sex-matched controls (13 men, aged 24-57 years, mean = 37.6 years) in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study at 1.5 T. We corrected for possible confounds introduced by tics, motion, and brain-structural differences as well as age, sex, comorbidities, and medication. Patients and controls were asked to perform a sequential finger-tapping task using their right, left, and both hands, respectively. Task performance was monitored by simultaneous MR-compatible video recording. Although behavioral data obtained during scanning did not show significant differences across groups, we observed differential neuronal activation patterns depending on both handedness (dominant vs. nondominant) and tapping frequency in frontal, parietal, and subcortical areas. When controlling for open motor performance, a failure of deactivation in easier task conditions was found in the subgenual cingulate cortex in the TS patients. In addition, performance-related functional connectivity of lower- and higher-order motor networks differed between patients and controls. In summary, although open performance was comparable, patients showed different neuronal networks and connectivity patterns when performing increasingly demanding tasks, further illustrating the impact of the disease on the motor system.
Tourettes syndrome (TS) is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics as well as psychiatric comorbidities. Recently, differences in maturation of cortical networks using functional connectivity metrics have been described for this disorder. However, adult data on subcortical networks are scarce. In particular, the connectivity of the amygdala, for which a role in the pathophysiology of TS has been established, has not been examined so far. We studied 15 adult TS patients (11 male, aged 30.4 ± 9.7y) and 15 age- and sex-matched controls (11 male, aged 32.0 ± 9.3y) in a functional magnetic resonance imaging study at 1.5T using a simple motor task. We corrected for possible confounds introduced by tics, motion and brain-structural differences as well as age, sex, and medication. Task performance was monitored by simultaneous MR-compatible video-recording. Data were analyzed using an independent component approach sensitive to functional connectivity patterns. A stable component comprising both amygdalae could be identified across all subjects. Additionally, we observed a highly significant increase in coupling between/within amygdalae in the TS group when compared to controls, although behavioral data obtained during scanning did not show significant differences. These findings are expected to add to our understanding of the functional architecture of Tourettes syndrome.
Negative emotion exerts a considerable influence on cognitive processes. This may have clinical implications in mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, where negative emotions often prevail. Experimentally this influence can be studied by using olfactory emotion induction.
A new open-source software project is presented, JEMRIS, the Jülich Extensible MRI Simulator, which provides an MRI sequence development and simulation environment for the MRI community. The development was driven by the desire to achieve generality of simulated three-dimensional MRI experiments reflecting modern MRI systems hardware. The accompanying computational burden is overcome by means of parallel computing. Many aspects are covered that have not hitherto been simultaneously investigated in general MRI simulations such as parallel transmit and receive, important off-resonance effects, nonlinear gradients, and arbitrary spatiotemporal parameter variations at different levels. The latter can be used to simulate various types of motion, for instance. The JEMRIS user interface is very simple to use, but nevertheless it presents few limitations. MRI sequences with arbitrary waveforms and complex interdependent modules are modeled in a graphical user interface-based environment requiring no further programming. This manuscript describes the concepts, methods, and performance of the software. Examples of novel simulation results in active fields of MRI research are given.
Tourettes syndrome is characterised by motor and vocal tics as well as a high level of impulsivity and emotional dysregulation. Neuroimaging studies point to structural changes of the basal ganglia, prefrontal cortex and parts of the limbic system. However, there is no link between behavioural symptoms and the structural changes in the amygdala. One aspect of daily social interaction is the perception of emotional facial expressions, closely linked to amgydala function.
The following fMRI study aimed to characterize the neural correlates of explicit emotion discrimination in 17 patients with schizophrenia and 17 matched healthy controls. In patients, emotion recognition impairments were found to be paralleled by cerebral dysfunctions in the affective division of the anterior cingulate cortex, the bilateral dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, the right superior temporal gyrus and the right fusiform gyrus. While the patients responses to emotional faces were characterized predominantly by hypoactivations, the neutral faces elicited hyperactivations mainly in the frontal and cingulate areas, and the basal ganglia, along with misattribution errors. The decreased activation in the fusiform face area during responses to both emotional and neutral stimuli may be indicative of general face processing deficits. Similar although less pronounced deficits have been observed in subjects at high risk of psychosis as well as in patients with early onset. In adult schizophrenia, the evidence of an imbalanced cerebral network appears early in the course of the illness, with the dysfunctions, as indicated by correlations here, becoming more pronounced in patients with longer illness duration.
Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder with the cardinal symptoms of motor and vocal tics. The onset occurs during childhood; many patients experience a subsequent reduction of tic frequency and severity suggesting that the pathways involved play a significant developmental role. Research has mainly focused on the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuit, but clinical symptoms and recent neuroimaging studies suggest the involvement of limbic structures as well. We acquired diffusion-weighted data at 1.5 T in fifteen adult patients fulfilling the DSM-IV-TR criteria for TS and in a healthy control group. Based on the Harvard-Oxford subcortical structural atlas we investigated the microstructure of grey matter nuclei such as the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala, the putamen, the pallidum and the thalamus. The basal ganglia and the thalamus show in the direct comparison between patients and control subjects no significant differences in the diffusion indices. However, within the Tourette group the correlation coefficients between diffusion parameters and measures of tic severity indicate that the individual microstructure of the basal ganglia has an influence on the individual clinical phenotype. The microstructure assessment of the amygdala and nucleus accumbens in TS revealed a significant difference for the left nucleus accumbens and the right amygdala. Our findings suggest two pathophysiologic patterns in TS. One pattern could indicate altered connectivity based on the correlation between the increased mean and axial diffusivity in the basal ganglia and tic severity. The other pattern is characterized by the increase in radial diffusivity in the amygdala and the correlation between radial diffusivity in the nucleus accumbens and tic measures indicating potentially altered myelination.
Attention deficits belong to the main cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and come along with altered neural activity in previously described cerebral networks. Given the high heritability of schizophrenia the question arises if impaired function of these networks is modulated by susceptibility genes and detectable in healthy risk allele carriers.
The startle reflex provides a unique tool for the investigation of sensorimotor gating and information processing. Simultaneous EMG-fMRI acquisition (i.e., online stimulation and recording in the MR environment) allows for the quantitative assessment of the neuronal correlates of the startle reflex and its modulations on a single trial level. This serves as the backbone for a startle response informed fMRI analysis, which is fed by data acquired in the same brain at the same time. We here present the first MR study using a single trial approach with simultaneous acquired EMG and fMRI data on the human startle response in 15 healthy young men. It investigates the neural correlates for isolated air puff startle pulses (PA), prepulse-pulse inhibition (PPI), and prepulse facilitation (PPF). We identified a common core network engaged by all three conditions (PA, PPI, and PPF), consisting of bilateral primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, right insula, right thalamus, right temporal pole, middle cingulate cortex, and cerebellum. The cerebellar vermis exhibits distinct activation patterns between the startle modifications. It is differentially activated with the highest amplitude for PPF, a lower activation for PA, and lowest for PPI. The orbital frontal cortex exhibits a differential activation pattern, not for the type of startle response but for the amplitude modification. For pulse alone it is close to zero; for PPI it is activated. This is in contrast to PPF where it shows deactivation. In addition, the thalamus, the cerebellum, and the anterior cingulate cortex add to the modulation of the startle reflex.
Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder with the cardinal symptoms of motor and vocal tics. Often tics are accompanied by comorbidities such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder or depression. Research has mainly focused on the cortico-striato-thalamo circuit, but clinical symptoms and recent neuroimaging studies reporting altered resting network connectivity have suggested abnormalities in Tourette syndrome beyond the major motor circuits. We acquired diffusion-weighted data at 1.5T in nineteen adult patients fulfilling the DSM-IV-TR criteria for Tourette syndrome and in a healthy control group. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis in our adult TS sample shows a decrease of FA and increase in radial diffusivity in the corticospinal tract. There are widespread changes (reduced FA and increased radial diffusivity) in the anterior and posterior limb of the internal capsule. Furthermore, it confirms prior findings of altered interhemispheric connectivity as indicated by a FA-decrease in the corpus callosum. In addition, our results indicate that TS is not restricted to motor pathways alone but affects association fibres such as the inferior fronto-occipitalis fascicle, the superior longitudinal fascicle and fascicle uncinatus as well. Tics are the hallmark of Tourette syndrome, so the involvement of the corticospinal tract fits in well with clinical symptoms. Cortical regions as well as limbic structures take part in the modulation of tics. Our findings of alterations in long association fibre tracts and the corpus callosum are a potential source for hindered interhemispheric and transhemispheric interaction. The change in radial diffusivity points toward a deficit in myelination as one pathophysiological factor in Tourette syndrome.
Memory dysfunction is a prominent feature in schizophrenia. Impairments of declarative memory have been consistently linked to alterations especially within hippocampal-prefrontal regions. Due to the high heritability of schizophrenia, susceptibility genes and their modulatory impact on the neural correlates on memory are of major relevance. In the present study the influence of the COMT val(158)met status on the neural correlates of declarative memory was investigated in healthy subjects.
Polymorphisms in the G72 (also named d-amino acid oxidase activator, DAOA) gene increase the vulnerability for schizophrenia and affective psychosis. Three recent genetic neuroimaging studies showed that variation in G72 influences the brain activity in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), supporting the hypothesis that G72 might play a modulatory role on brain activity in MTL structures. In the present study we therefore investigated the effect of G72 on the neural correlates of long-term memory encoding and retrieval in a large sample of healthy subjects (n=83) using functional magnetic resonance imaging. A face encoding and a face retrieval memory task were chosen because on the one hand they specifically activate MTL structures and on the other hand they tap into memory processes that are compromised in patients with schizophrenia and affective disorder. Despite a strong a-priori hypothesis of genotype group activation differences in the MTL along with a large sample size we did neither find an effect of G72 genotype status on brain activity in the MTL nor in any other brain regions. The present data therefore do not support the view of a general modulatory role of G72 on MTL brain activity, at least not in the domain of long-term memory encoding and retrieval. Our results highlight the importance of replication studies in genetic neuroimaging.
Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) has been found to be associated with schizophrenia. Impaired performance in episodic memory tasks is an often replicated finding in this disorder. In functional neuroimaging studies, this dysfunction has been linked to signal changes in prefrontal and medial temporal areas. Therefore, it is of interest whether genes associated with the disorder, such as NRG1, modulate episodic memory performance and its neural correlates. Ninety-four healthy individuals performed an episodic memory encoding and a retrieval task while brain activation was measured with functional MRI. All subjects were genotyped for the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs35753505 in the NRG1 gene. The effect of genotype on brain activation was assessed with fMRI during the two tasks. While there were no differences in performance, brain activation in the cingulate gyrus (BA 24), the left middle frontal gyrus (BA 9), the bilateral fusiform gyrus and the left middle occipital gyrus (BA 19) was positively correlated with the number of risk alleles in NRG1 during encoding. During retrieval brain activation was positively correlated with the number of risk alleles in the left middle occipital gyrus (BA 19). NRG1 genotype does modulate brain activation during episodic memory processing in key areas for memory encoding and retrieval. The results suggest that subjects with risk alleles show hyperactivations in areas associated with elaborate encoding strategies.
Recent genetic studies found the A allele of the variant rs1006737 in the alpha 1C subunit of the L-type voltage-gated calcium channel (CACNA1C) gene to be overrepresented in patients suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression. While the functions underlying the pathophysiology of these psychiatric disorders are yet unknown, impaired performance in verbal fluency tasks is an often replicated finding. We investigated the influence of the rs1006737 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on verbal fluency and its neural correlates.
Residual magnetisation is one of the major sources of artefacts in single point imaging sequences with short repetition times. The unwanted signal is caused by non-dephased transverse magnetisation excited in preceding acquisition cycles. Therefore, the problem emerges mainly around the centre of k-space and has been solved in the past by additional spoiling gradients. In this work, unwanted residual magnetisation acquired with the SPRITE sequence was investigated and a new method for the suppression of residual magnetisation is presented. It is shown that residual magnetisation experiences a different phase encoding leading to residual images with a different FOV. A phase cycling filter is able to eliminate the unwanted signal. Furthermore, a description of all signal components that occur is presented using an operator notation. The notation is new in this field with respect to its completeness. That is, the signal description is based on an understanding of single point imaging sequences, such as SPRITE, by the use of an extended phase encode graph. A prominent in vivo example is that of sodium imaging in biological tissue where transverse relaxation times are such that unwanted coherences can occur and therefore residual magnetisation becomes a significant problem. For instance, sodium in biological tissue has two transverse relaxation times of approximately 3ms and 15ms at 4T and this can result in significant artefacts if the encoding time is short and TR<3ms.
The Neuregulin (NRG1) gene has been associated with schizophrenia, but its functional implications are largely unknown. Our aim was to assess differential brain activation between patients carrying an at-risk allele on the Neuregulin 1 gene and patients without this genetic risk. Neural signal changes between 14 first episode schizophrenia patients with the at risk allele (SNP8NRG221533) from the Icelandic core haplotype and 14 without were measured with fMRI during a working memory task. Patients without the at risk allele showed greater activations (P < 0.05; corrected) in the left hippocampus, precuneus and cerebellum, as well as the right anterior cingulate. Brain regions previously associated with the pathology of Schizophrenia are differentially affected in those with a genetic at risk status in the NRG1 gene. Heterogeneity of structural and functional measures within patients characterized by clinical phenotypes may be in part due to this genetic variation.
Impaired performance in verbal fluency tasks is an often replicated finding in schizophrenia. In functional neuroimaging studies, this dysfunction has been linked to signal changes in prefrontal and temporal areas. Since schizophrenia has a high heritability, it is of interest whether susceptibility genes for the disorder, such as NRG1, modulate verbal fluency performance and its neural correlates. Four hundred twenty-nine healthy individuals performed a semantic and a lexical verbal fluency task. A subsample of 85 subjects performed an overt semantic verbal fluency task while brain activation was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). NRG1 (SNP8NRG221533; rs35753505) status was determined and correlated with verbal fluency performance and brain activation. For the behavioral measure, there was a linear effect of NRG1 status on semantic but not on lexical verbal fluency. Performance decreased with number of risk-alleles. In the fMRI experiment, decreased activation in the left inferior frontal and the right middle temporal gyri as well as the anterior cingulate gyrus was correlated with the number of risk-alleles in the semantic verbal fluency task. NRG1 genotype does influence language production on a semantic level in conjunction with the underlying neural systems. These findings are in line with results of studies in schizophrenia and may explain some of the cognitive and brain activation variation found in the disorder. More generally, NRG1 might be one of several genes that influence semantic language capacities.
Variation in the val(158)met polymorphism of the COMT gene has been found to be associated with cognitive performance. In functional neuroimaging studies, this dysfunction has been linked to signal changes in prefrontal areas. Given the complex modulation and functional heterogeneity of frontal lobe systems, further specification of COMT gene-related phenotypes differing in prefrontally mediated cognitive performance are of major interest. Eighty healthy individuals (54 men, 26 women; mean age 23.3 years) performed an overt semantic verbal fluency task while brain activation was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). COMT val(158)met genotype was determined and correlated with brain activation measured with fMRI during the task. Although there were no differences in performance, brain activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus [Brodmann area 10] was positively correlated with the number of val alleles in the COMT gene. COMT val(158)met status modulates brain activation during the language production on a semantic level in an area related to executive functions.
Diffusion tensor imaging is an important method for noninvasively acquiring structural information of the human brain. For advanced fiber tracking, the acquisition of diffusion-weighted (DW) images has to be performed along many different spatial directions, resulting in long scan times. Therefore, the ultra-fast imaging method, echo-planar imaging (EPI), is mostly used, but this technique suffers from susceptibility-induced image artefacts and geometric distortions. These problems become even more pronounced at very high magnetic field strengths. In this regard, DW, single-shot STEAM is an interesting and rapid imaging alternative to EPI-based methods. DW single-shot STEAM enables the acquisition of artefact-free images albeit at the expense of a reduced signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), which can be compensated by utilizing high magnetic fields. Here, the application of DW single-shot STEAM at 4 Tesla is demonstrated. To optimize the SNR and the resolution properties, a new variable flip-angle computational algorithm is introduced enabling accurate signal evolution computation with a precise calculation of transverse coherences. Omission of radiofrequency (RF) spoiling results in an approximate twofold increase of the DW signal by integration of the stable refocused transverse magnetization. The advantage of the approach is shown in simulations and in vivo experiments.
G72 is a vulnerability gene for schizophrenia and affective psychosis, disorders that are characterized by deficits in working memory. In the present study we investigated whether the G72 genotype influences verbal and spatial working memory functions in healthy individuals. Working memory was assessed at the behavioural level in 423 subjects using the spatial span of the Wechsler Memory Scale (spatial working memory) and the letter-number-span test (verbal working memory). In a sub-sample of 83 subjects, we assessed working memory functions also at the neural level using functional magnetic resonance imaging during a classical letter variant of the n-back task. Unexpectedly the high risk allele carriers performed better in the verbal working memory task than the other subjects. These behavioural differences were accompanied by brain activation differences in the right parahippocampus, a brain region that plays a major role in schizophrenia and affective disorders. The high risk variant of a vulnerability gene therefore does not necessarily have to negatively affect cognitive abilities per se, but may even have beneficial effects on cognitive functions in the non-affected population.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) images are prone to motion artefacts due to the long acquisition time of PET measurements. Recently, simultaneous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET have become available in the first generation of Hybrid MR-PET scanners. In this work, the elimination of artefacts due to head motion in PET neuroimages is achieved by a new approach utilising MR-based motion tracking in combination with PET list mode data motion correction for simultaneous MR-PET acquisitions. The method comprises accurate MR-based motion measurements, an intra-frame motion minimising and reconstruction time reducing temporal framing algorithm, and a list mode based PET reconstruction which utilises the Ordinary Poisson Algorithm and avoids axial and transaxial compression. Compared to images uncorrected for motion, an increased image quality is shown in phantom as well as in vivo images. In vivo motion corrected images show an evident increase of contrast at the basal ganglia and a good visibility of uptake in tiny structures such as superior colliculi.
Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging provides access to fiber pathways and structural integrity in fibrous tissues such as white matter in the brain. In order to enable better access to the sensitivity of the diffusion indices to the underlying microstructure, it is important to develop artificial model systems that exhibit a well-known structure, on the one hand, but benefit from a reduced complexity on the other hand. In this work, we developed a novel multisection diffusion phantom made of polyethylene fibers tightly wound on an acrylic support. The phantom exhibits three regions with different geometrical configuration of fibers: a region with fibers crossing at right angles, a region with parallel fibers and homogeneous density, and, finally, a region with parallel fibers but with a gradient of fiber density along the axis of symmetry. This gives rise to a gradual change of the degree of anisotropy within the same phantom. In this way, the need to construct several phantoms with different fiber densities is avoided, and one can access different fractional anisotropies in the same experiment under the same physical conditions. The properties of the developed phantom are demonstrated by means of diffusion tensor imaging and diffusion kurtosis imaging. The measurements were performed using a diffusion-weighted spin-echo and a diffusion-weighted stimulated-echo pulse sequence programmed in-house. The influence of the fiber density packing on the diffusion parameters was analyzed. We also demonstrate how the novel phantom can be used for the validation of high angular resolution diffusion imaging data analysis.
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