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Despite recent advancements in MR imaging, non-invasive mapping of myelin in the brain still remains an open issue. Here we attempted to provide a potential solution. Specifically, we developed a processing workflow based on T1-w and T2-w MR data to generate an optimized myelin enhanced contrast image. The workflow allows whole brain mapping using the T1-w/T2-w technique, which was originally introduced as a non-invasive method for assessing cortical myelin content. The hallmark of our approach is a retrospective calibration algorithm, applied to bias-corrected T1-w and T2-w images, that relies on image intensities outside the brain. This permits standardizing the intensity histogram of the ratio image, thereby allowing for across-subject statistical analyses. Quantitative comparisons of image histograms within and across different datasets confirmed the effectiveness of our normalization procedure. Not only did the calibrated T1-w/T2-w images exhibit a comparable intensity range, but also the shape of the intensity histograms was largely corresponding. We also assessed the reliability and specificity of the ratio image compared to other MR-based techniques, such as magnetization transfer ratio (MTR), fractional anisotropy (FA), and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR). With respect to these other techniques, T1-w/T2-w had consistently high values, as well as low inter-subject variability, in brain structures where myelin is most abundant. Overall, our results suggested that the T1-w/T2-w technique may be a valid tool supporting the non-invasive mapping of myelin in the brain. Therefore, it might find important applications in the study of brain development, aging and disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Hum Neurosci

Publication Date





brain integrity assessment, brain mapping, magnetic resonance imaging, myelin enhanced contrast, myelin mapping