Can we use diffusion MRI as a bio-marker of neurodegenerative processes?

Yaniv Assaf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging technique with a rapidly expanding application range. This methodology, which relies on quantum physics and substance magnetic properties, is now being routinely used in the clinics and medical research. With the advent of measuring functional brain activity with MRI (functional MRI), this methodology has reached a larger section of the neuroscience community (e.g. psychologists, neurobiologists). In the past, the use of MRI as a biomarker or as an assay to probe tissue pathophysiological condition was limited. However, with the new applications of MRI: molecular imaging, contrast-enhanced imaging and diffusion imaging, MRI is turning into a powerful tool for in vivo characterization of tissue pathophysiology. This review focuses on the diffusion MRI. Although it only measures the averaged Brownian translational motion of water molecules, using different analysis schemes, one can extract a wide range of quantitative indices that represent tissue morphology and compartmentalization. Statistical and visualization routines help to relate these indices to biologically relevant measures such as cell density, water content and size distribution. The aim of this review is to shed light on the potential of this methodology to be used in biological research. To that end, this review is intended for the non-MRI specialists who wish to pursue biological research with this methodology. We will overview the current applications of diffusion MRI and its relation to cellular biology of brain tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1245
Number of pages11
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2008


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