Nonivasive quantification of axon radii using diffusion MRI

Jelle Veraart, Daniel Nunes, Umesh Rudrapatna, Els Fieremans, Derek K Jones, Dmitry S Novikov, Noam Shemesh
2020 eLife  
Axon caliber plays a crucial role in determining conduction velocity and, consequently, in the timing and synchronization of neural activation. Noninvasive measurement of axon radii could have significant impact on the understanding of healthy and diseased neural processes. Until now, accurate axon radius mapping has eluded in vivo neuroimaging, mainly due to a lack of sensitivity of the MRI signal to micron-sized axons. Here, we show how – when confounding factors such as extra-axonal water
more » ... axonal orientation dispersion are eliminated – heavily diffusion-weighted MRI signals become sensitive to axon radii. However, diffusion MRI is only capable of estimating a single metric, the effective radius, representing the entire axon radius distribution within a voxel that emphasizes the larger axons. Our findings, both in rodents and humans, enable noninvasive mapping of critical information on axon radii, as well as resolve the long-standing debate on whether axon radii can be quantified.
doi:10.7554/elife.49855 pmid:32048987 pmcid:PMC7015669 fatcat:kq2vbqvsfbbvjadxlad4jvatwy