Microstructural correlates of 23Na relaxation in human brain at 7 Tesla
23Na provides the second strongest MR-observable signal in biological tissue and exhibits bi-exponential T2∗ relaxation in micro-environments such as the brain. There is significant interest in developing 23Na biomarkers for neurological diseases that are associated with sodium channel dysfunction such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. We have previously reported methods for acquisition of multi-echo sodium MRI and continuous distribution modelling of sodium relaxation properties as surrogate
... markers of brain microstructure. This study aimed to compare 23Na T2∗ relaxation times to more established measures of tissue microstructure derived from advanced diffusion MRI at 7 T. Six healthy volunteers were scanned using a 3D multi-echo radial ultra-short TE sequence using a dual-tuned 1H/23Na birdcage coil, and a high-resolution multi-shell, high angular resolution diffusion imaging sequence using a 32-channel 1H receive coil. 23Na T2∗ relaxation parameters [mean T2∗ (T2∗mean) and fast relaxation fraction (T2∗ff)] were calculated from a voxel-wise continuous gamma distribution signal model. White matter (restricted anisotropic diffusion) and grey matter (restricted isotropic diffusion) density were calculated from multi-shell multi-tissue constrained spherical deconvolution. Sodium parameters were compared with white and grey matter diffusion properties. Sodium T2∗mean and T2∗ff showed little variation across a range of white matter axonal fibre and grey matter densities. We conclude that sodium T2∗ relaxation parameters are not greatly influenced by relative differences in intra- and extracellular partial volumes. We suggest that care be taken when interpreting sodium relaxation changes in terms of tissue microstructure in healthy tissue.