Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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White Matter Maps
01 September 2015

White Matter Maps

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is essentially the study of water diffusion in living tissue. It’s commonly used in medical imaging to examine neurological disorders and tissue lesions, producing detailed images and brain maps. Water diffusion in the brain is anisotropic [has a preferred direction], so by studying water diffusion the fastest direction of travel can be mapped using coloured fibres to reveal the orientation of white matter bundles in the brain. Pictured are the MRI brain connectivity maps of 78 subjects, highlighting the neural connections at specific locations in the brain. While there are clear similarities between the subjects, slight differences help to shed light on our individualities. But the mechanisms behind water diffusion are still not fully understood. Researchers are currently working to gather mechanistic insight into the processes behind MRI in order to optimise the technique, providing higher resolution images, which could be used to study cell function.

Written by Helen Thomas

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