Imaging biomarkers with increased myelin specificity are needed to better understand the complex progression of neurological disorders. Inhomogeneous magnetization transfer (ihMT) imaging is an emergent technique that has a high degree of specificity for myelin content but suffers from low signal to‐noise ratio (SNR). This study used simulations to determine optimal sequence parameters for ihMT imaging for use in high‐resolution cortical mapping.
MT‐weighted cortical image intensity and ihMT SNR were simulated using modified Bloch equations for a range of sequence parameters. The acquisition time was limited to 4.5 min/volume. A custom MT‐weighted RAGE sequence with center‐out k‐space encoding was used to enhance SNR at 3 T. Pulsed MT imaging was studied over a range of saturation parameters, and the impact of the turbo factor on the effective ihMT resolution was investigated. 1 mm isotropic ihMTsat maps were generated in 25 healthy adults.
Greater SNR was observed for larger number of bursts consisting of 6–8 saturation pulses each, combined with a high readout turbo factor. However, that protocol suffered from a point spread function that was more than twice the nominal resolution. For high‐resolution cortical imaging, we selected a protocol with a higher effective resolution at the cost of a lower SNR. We present the first group‐average ihMTsat whole‐brain map at 1 mm isotropic resolution.
This study presents the impact of saturation and excitation parameters on ihMTsat SNR and resolution. We demonstrate the feasibility of high‐resolution cortical myelin imaging using ihMTsat in less than 20 min.