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Glowing Results: Brain Mapping Tool Proves Reliable Over Time

For release: Friday, December 10, 2010

Diffusion tensor imaging of white matter fibers

Diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, is a noninvasive way to visualize the nerve fibers connecting different parts of the brain. The advanced technology uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track the movement of water through white matter, allowing a colorful illumination of the brain’s circuitry (above; credit: M.K. Floeter, NINDS).

Neuroscientists are still testing the power and limitations of DTI.  Researchers led by Mary Kay Floeter, M.D., Ph.D., acting clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), assessed the reliability of fiber tracking with DTI over time. They scanned a group of healthy people three times and repeated the procedure one year later.

In the study's images, parts of the corpus callosum—the fibers that bridge the brain’s left and right sides—appear blue, green and yellow, while other brain structures are red and orange.

The data showed consistent results over the time interval.  The NIH team concluded that fiber tracking can provide a reliable tool for longitudinal evaluation of white matter properties.

Such findings strengthen the case that doctors may someday harness the power of DTI in assessing long-term changes in white matter to gauge damage from neurodegenerative processes.

L.E. Danielian, N.K. Iwata, D.M. Thomasson, M.K. Floeter. “Reliability of fiber tracking measurements in diffusion tensor imaging for longitudinal study.” Vol. 49(2), pp. 1572-1580, January 15, 2010.

Last Modified December 13, 2010