Mapping average axon diameter (AAD) and axon diameter distribution (ADD) in neuronal tissues non-invasively is a challenging task that may have a tremendous effect on our understanding of the normal and diseased central nervous system (CNS). Water diffusion is used to probe microstructure in neuronal tissues, however, the different water populations and barriers that are present in these tissues turn this into a complex task. Therefore, it is not surprising that recently we have witnessed a burst in the development of new approaches and models that attempt to obtain, non-invasively, detailed microstructural information in the CNS. In this work, we aim at challenging and comparing the microstructural information obtained from single diffusion encoding (SDE) with double diffusion encoding (DDE) MRI. We first applied SDE and DDE MR spectroscopy (MRS) on microcapillary phantoms and then applied SDE and DDE MRI on an ex vivo porcine spinal cord (SC), using similar experimental conditions. The obtained diffusion MRI data were fitted by the same theoretical model, assuming that the signal in every voxel can be approximated as the superposition of a Gaussian-diffusing component and a series of restricted components having infinite cylindrical geometries. The diffusion MRI results were then compared with histological findings. We found a good agreement between the fittings and the experimental data in white matter (WM) voxels of the SC in both diffusion MRI methods. The microstructural information and apparent AADs extracted from SDE MRI were found to be similar or somewhat larger than those extracted from DDE MRI especially when the diffusion time was set to 40 ms. The apparent ADDs extracted from SDE and DDE MRI show reasonable agreement but somewhat weaker correspondence was observed between the diffusion MRI results and histology. The apparent subtle differences between the microstructural information obtained from SDE and DDE MRI are briefly discussed.
- axon diameter
- diffusion MRI
- double diffusion encoding (DDE)-MRI
- spinal cord