Quantitative T2 mapping of white matter: applications for ageing and cognitive decline

Michael Knight, Bryony McCann, Demitra Tsivos, Serena Dillon, Elizabeth Coulthard, Risto Kauppinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
344 Downloads (Pure)


In MRI, the coherence lifetime T2 is sensitive to the magnetic environment imposed by tissue microstructure and biochemistry in vivo. Here we explore the possibility that the use of T2 relaxometry may provide information complementary to that provided by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in healthy controls (HC), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). T2 and diffusion MRI metrics were quantified in HC and patients with MCI and mild AD using multi-echo MRI and DTI. We used Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to evaluate quantitative MRI parameters in white matter (WM). A prolonged T2 in WM was associated with AD, and able to distinguish AD from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and AD from cognitively normal controls (NC). Shorter WM T2 was associated with better cognition and younger age in general. In no case was a reduction in T2 associated with poorer cognition. We also applied principal component analysis, showing that WM volume changes independently of T2, MRI diffusion indices and cognitive performance indices. Our data add to the evidence that age-related and AD-related decline in cognition is in part attributable to WM tissue state, and much less to WM quantity. These observations suggest that WM is involved in AD pathology, and that T2 relaxometry is a potential imaging modality for detecting and characterising WM in cognitive decline and dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5587
Number of pages19
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number15
Early online date6 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2016

Structured keywords

  • CRICBristol
  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Cognitive Science


  • T2 relaxation
  • MRI
  • brain
  • white matter
  • ageing
  • cognitive decline


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