The integrity of subcortical brain nuclei is associated with maintenance of regular cognitive performance levels and has been shown to be particularly affected by aging-related vascular pathology. This study aims to demonstrate applicability of high field strength magnetic resonance angiography at 7 Tesla (7T) for assessment of interindividual variation in subcortical vascularization.
Two healthy female subjects without known history of cerebrovascular disease or malformation, aged 43 and 86 years, respectively, were administered three-dimensional (3D) high-resolution time-of-flight (TOF) magnetic resonance angiography at 7T. The FreeSurfer software package was used for automated parcellation and assessment of subcortical volumes. For each volume, mean regional intensities were calculated based on the TOF contrast as a quantitative reflection of regional subcortical gray-matter vascularization.
While volumes of the subcortical brain region assessed did not differ significantly (30.2 and 27.8 mL, P = 0.78), mean intensities were significantly reduced in the older participant (10%, P = 0.004). Mean intensities could be assessed for each participant for 14 subcortical structures, strongest differences were observable for the left and right Thalamus (T [left, right] = 3.85, 3.82; P [left, right] = 0.002, 0.003).
High-resolution TOF magnetic resonance angiography may be used in combination with automated volume-based parcellation to quantify regional subcortical vascularization and to assess interindividual differences. Additional studies are necessary to assess its potential use in clinical trials on cerebrovascular integrity in a context of aging-related brain change.