Volume and iron content in basal ganglia and thalamus



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have highlighted the possibility to investigate brain iron content in vivo. In this study, we combined T2* relaxometry and automatic segmentation of basal ganglia based on T1-weighted images in healthy subjects, with the aim of characterizing age related changes in volume and iron-related relaxivity values (R2*) of these structures. Thirty healthy subjects underwent MR imaging at 3 Tesla. Mean R2* values and volumes were calculated for the selected subcortical structures (pallidum, putamen, thalamus and caudate nucleus). Our results showed a correlation between R2* values and iron concentration as calculated from published post-mortem data. Furthermore, we observed a shrinkage/iron increase with a different pattern in the anatomical regions selected in this work, suggesting that the age-related changes on these MR parameters are specific to the subcortical structure considered. In particular, the putamen demonstrated a decrease of volume and an increase of iron level, with the posterior region of this structure appearing more disposed to iron deposition. Our work suggests that combining volumetry and iron estimation in MRI permits to investigate in vivo neurophysiological and neuropathological changes of basal ganglia. Hum Brain Mapp 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.