Validating faster DENSE measurements of cardiac-induced brain tissue expansion as a potential tool for investigating cerebral microvascular pulsations

Adams, Ayodeji L., Viergever, Max A., Luijten, Peter R., Zwanenburg, Jaco J.M.


NeuroImage 208


Displacement Encoding with Stimulated Echoes (DENSE) has recently shown potential for measuring cardiac-induced cerebral volumetric strain in the human brain. As such, it may provide a powerful tool for investigating the cerebral small vessels. However, further development and validation are necessary. This study aims, first, to validate a retrospectively-gated implementation of the DENSE method for assessing brain tissue pulsations as a physiological marker, and second, to use the acquired measurements to explore intracranial volume dynamics. We acquired repeated measurements of cerebral volumetric strain in 8 healthy subjects, and internally validated these measurements by comparing them to spinal CSF stroke volumes obtained in the same scan session. Peak volumetric strain was found to be highly repeatable between scan sessions. First/second measured peak volumetric strains were: (6.4 ​± ​1.7)x10−4/(6.7 ​± ​1.6)x10−4 for whole brain, (9.5 ​± ​2.5)x10−4/(9.6 ​± ​2.4)x10−4 for grey matter, and (4.4 ​± ​1.7)x10−4/(4.1 ​± ​0.8)x10−4 for white matter. Grey matter showed significantly higher peak strain (p ​< ​0.001) and earlier time-to-peak strain (p ​< ​0.02) than white matter. An approximately linear relationship was found between CSF and brain tissue volume pulsations over the cardiac cycle (mean slope and R2 of 0.88 ​± ​0.23 and 0.89 ​± ​0.07, respectively). The close similarity between CSF and brain tissue volume pulsations implies limited contributions from large intracranial vessel pulsations, providing further evidence for venous compression as an additional mechanism for maintaining stable intracranial pressures over the cardiac cycle. Cerebral pulsatility showed consistent inter-subject peak values in healthy subjects, and was strongly correlated to CSF stroke volumes. These results strengthen the potential of brain tissue volumetric strain as a means for investigating the intracranial dynamics of the ageing brain in normal or diseased states.