In-vivo diffusion tensor imaging of rat spinal cord with a phased array coil at 7T

Venkata Kishore Mogatadakala, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive technique that offers excellent soft tissue contrast for characterizing soft tissue pathologies. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is an MRI technique that has shown to have the sensitivity to detect subtle pathology that is not evident on conventional MRI. Rats are commonly used as animal models in characterizing the spinal cord pathologies including spinal cord injury (SCI), cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc. These pathologies could affect both thoracic and cervical regions and complete characterization of these pathologies using MRI requires DTI characterization in both the thoracic and cervical regions. Prior to the application of DTI for investigating the pathologic changes in the spinal cord, it is essential to establish DTI metrics in normal animals. To date, in-vivo DTI studies of rat spinal cord have used implantable coils for high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and spin-echo pulse sequences for reduced geometric distortions. Implantable coils have several disadvantages including: (1) the invasive nature of implantation, (2) loss of SNR due to frequency shift with time in the longitudinal studies, and (3) difficulty in imaging the cervical region. While echo planar imaging (EPI) offers much shorter acquisition times compared to spin-echo imaging, EPI is very sensitive to static magnetic field inhomogeneities and the existing shimming techniques implemented on the MRI scanner do not perform well on spinal cord because of its geometry. In this work, an integrated approach has been implemented for in-vivo DTI characterization of rat spinal cord in the thoracic and cervical regions. A three element phased array coil was developed for improved SNR and extended spatial coverage. A field-map shimming technique was developed for minimizing the geometric distortions in EPI images. Using these techniques, EPI based DWI images were acquired with optimized diffusion encoding scheme from 6 normal rats and the DTI-derived metrics were quantified. The phantom studies indicated higher SNR and smaller bias in the estimated DTI metrics than the previous studies in the cervical region. In-vivo results indicated no statistical difference in the DTI characteristics of either gray matter or white matter between the thoracic and cervical regions.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Mogatadakala, Venkata Kishore, "In-vivo diffusion tensor imaging of rat spinal cord with a phased array coil at 7T" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3335225.