Three-pool model of white matter




To investigate the use of a three-pool relaxation model to measure myelin, myelinated-axon, and mixed water-pool fractions in white matter (WM) during myelination.

Materials and Methods

MRI at 1.9 Tesla, and conventional spin-echo imaging were used to acquire T1 and T2 relaxation data in 15 normal children ranging in age from 3 months to 13 years 4 months. Three equations with three unknowns were solved to calculate three water-pool fractions for each child in a frontal association-fiber area and a frontal-parietal projection-fiber area. The temporal trend of the fractions was compared with a theoretical three-pool myelination model.


The myelin level in the projection-fiber area rose earlier than in the association-fiber area following the standard caudal-to-rostral trend. The temporal trend of the three-pool fractions followed that predicted by the theoretical myelination model in both brain areas. The myelinated-axon and mixed pool sizes were significantly different in the two WM areas following early myelination, although their myelin pools were similar. T1 values correlated more highly with the myelinated-axon and mixed pool fractions than with the myelin pool fraction.


The three-pool relaxation model provides measurements of water-pool fractions in WM that follow values predicted during myelination. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2003;17:1–10. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.