Intrinsic cardiac-induced deformation of brain tissue is thought to be important in the pathophysiology of various neurological disorders. In this study, we evaluated the feasibility of utilizing displacement encoding with stimulated echoes (DENSE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to quantify two-dimensional (2D) neural tissue strain using cardiac-driven brain pulsations. We examined eight adult healthy volunteers with an electrocardiogram-gated spiral DENSE sequence performed at the midsagittal plane on a 3 Tesla MRI scanner. Displacement, pixel-wise trajectories, and principal strains were determined in seven regions of interest (ROI): the brain stem, cerebellum, corpus callosum, and four cerebral lobes. Quantification of small neural tissue motion and strain along with their spatial and temporal variations in different brain regions was found to be feasible using DENSE. The medial and inferior brain structures (brain stem, cerebellum, and corpus callosum) had significantly larger motion and strain compared to structures located more peripherally. The brain stem had the largest peak mean displacement (PMD) (187 ± 50 μm, mean ± SD). The largest mean principal strains in compression and extension were observed in the brain stem (0.38 ± 0.08%) and the corpus callosum (0.37 ± 0.08%), respectively. Measured values in percent strain were altered by as much as 0.1 between repeated scans. This study showed that DENSE can quantify regional variations in brain tissue motion and strain and has the potential to be utilized as a tool to evaluate the changes in brain tissue dynamics resulting from alterations in biomechanical stresses and tissue properties.

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