Probing Brain Microstructure and Pathology with Diffusion MRI

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Brain Activity Highlighted


Els Fieremans, PhD
Associate Professor, Co-Director
MRI Biophysics Group, Dept. of Radiology
NYU Grossman School of Medicine


Human magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is limited to millimeter voxels, yet diseases develop at the cellular scale. In brain, microstructural content can be retrieved in vivo non-invasively using diffusion MRI. In this talk, we will explore novel strategies to glean microstructural information from axons, the micrometer-sized wires that connect neurons and make up the brain white matter. Specificity of diffusion MRI to axonal features is validated using realistic Monte Carlo simulations in 3-dimensional electron microscopy. The consequent gain in pathological sensitivity and specificity as compared to conventional MRI may help better diagnose and understand white matter diseases including multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and Alzheimer Disease.

Els Fieremans received her MS degree in Physics and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Ghent University, Belgium. The goal of her research is to leverage quantitative MRI towards specificity on the cellular scale, through biophysical modeling and validation using numerical and physical phantoms, in order to find the earliest and most sensitive markers of brain disease.  Diffusion MRI is her method of choice to map tissue microstructure non-invasively in vivo. Dr. Fieremans is actively involved in the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine serving on several committees and author of over 80 manuscripts. Her research is funded through NIBIB and NINDS, and she recently received the Irma T. Hirschl Career Scientist Award for academic excellence.

48x36x20 volume of human brain obtained by diffusion MRI
The image shows a 48x36x20 m volume of the human brain obtained by diffusion MRI.
Clearly visible are the sub-millimeter axons (color-coded) and other structure of the brain.