How Stiff is Your Brain? Measuring Mechanical Properties with MRI
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been widely used to examine structure and function in the brain using a variety of imaging contrasts based on water content of tissues, axon myelination, signal relaxation differences, and blood oxygenation. For research applications, these images can show how the brain changes during age and disease in conjunction with changes in brain functional performance. However, none of the standard MR imaging approaches have the sensitivity to detect differences in the brain associated with differences in performance in healthy young adults. Recently, we have developed technologies that enable the precise measurement of the mechanical properties of the brain, non-invasively, with a technique called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). With MRE, we have seen a high sensitivity between brain performance and mechanical properties in clinical populations and even in healthy young adults. I will describe the enabling technologies, our early applications, and some of the interesting findings of this highly interdisciplinary project.
Brad Sutton received his bachelor’s degree in general engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then earned his M.S. in electrical engineering and biomedical engineering and his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan. He returned to Illinois after completing his Ph.D., serving three years as a research scientist for the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute. He joined the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois in 2006, where he is currently a professor. He also serves as the technical director of the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute. He also is an affiliate of the Neuroscience Program and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a faculty member of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Sutton’s research is in developing magnetic resonance imaging methods that merge acquisition and reconstruction methods to address neurophysiology targets in healthy function and aging.