Mapping Human Fetal Brain Maturation In Vivo Using Quantitative MRI

V U Schmidbauer, G O Dovjak, M S Yildirim, G Mayr-Geisl, M Weber, M C Diogo, G M Gruber, F Prayer, R-I Milos, M Stuempflen, B Ulm, J Binder, D Bettelheim, H Kiss, D Prayer, G Kasprian

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

4 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: On the basis of a single multidynamic multiecho sequence acquisition, SyMRI generates a variety of quantitative image data that can characterize tissue-specific properties. The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the feasibility of SyMRI for the qualitative and quantitative assessment of fetal brain maturation.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In 52 fetuses, multidynamic multiecho sequence acquisitions were available. SyMRI was used to perform multidynamic multiecho-based postprocessing. Fetal brain maturity was scored qualitatively on the basis of SyMRI-generated MR imaging data. The results were compared with conventionally acquired T1-weighted/T2-weighted contrasts as a standard of reference. Myelin-related changes in T1-/T2-relaxation time/relaxation rate, proton density, and MR imaging signal intensity of the developing fetal brain stem were measured. A Pearson correlation analysis was used to detect correlations between the following: 1) the gestational age at MR imaging and the fetal brain maturity score, and 2) the gestational age at MR imaging and the quantitative measurements.

RESULTS: SyMRI provided images of sufficient quality in 12/52 (23.08%) (range, 23 + 6-34 + 0) fetal multidynamic multiecho sequence acquisitions. The fetal brain maturity score positively correlated with gestational age at MR imaging (SyMRI: r = 0.915, P < .001/standard of reference: r = 0.966, P < .001). Myelination-related changes in the T2 relaxation time/T2 relaxation rate of the medulla oblongata significantly correlated with gestational age at MR imaging (T2-relaxation time: r = -0.739, P = .006/T2-relaxation rate: r = 0.790, P = .002).

CONCLUSIONS: Fetal motion limits the applicability of multidynamic multiecho-based postprocessing. However, SyMRI-generated image data of sufficient quality enable the qualitative assessment of maturity-related changes of the fetal brain. In addition, quantitative T2 relaxation time/T2 relaxation rate mapping characterizes myelin-related changes of the brain stem prenatally. This approach, if successful, opens novel possibilities for the evaluation of structural and biochemical aspects of fetal brain maturation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2086-2093
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2021


  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Contrast Media
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Retrospective Studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging


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