Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Quantification of microscopic diffusion anisotropy disentangles effects of orientation dispersion from microstructure: Applications in healthy volunteers and in brain tumors

  • Filip Szczepankiewicz
  • Samo Lasic
  • Danielle van Westen
  • Pia C. Sundgren
  • Elisabet Englund
  • Carl-Fredrik Westin
  • Freddy Ståhlberg
  • Jimmy Latt
  • Daniel Topgaard
  • Markus Nilsson
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 241-252
Publication/Series: NeuroImage
Volume: 104
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

The anisotropy of water diffusion in brain tissue is affected by both disease and development. This change can be detected using diffusion MRI and is often quantified by the fractional anisotropy (FA) derived from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Although FA is sensitive to anisotropic cell structures, such as axons, it is also sensitive to their orientation dispersion. This is a major limitation to the use of FA as a biomarker for "tissue integrity", especially in regions of complex microarchitecture. In this work, we seek to circumvent this limitation by disentangling the effects of microscopic diffusion anisotropy from the orientation dispersion. The microscopic fractional anisotropy (mu FA) and the order parameter (OP) were calculated from the contrast between signal prepared with directional and isotropic diffusion encoding, where the latter was achieved by magic angle spinning of the q-vector (qMAS). These parameters were quantified in healthy volunteers and in two patients; one patient with meningioma and one with glioblastoma. Finally, we used simulations to elucidate the relation between FA and mu FA in various micro-architectures. Generally, mu FA was high in the white matter and low in the gray matter. In the white matter, the largest differences between mu FA and FA were found in crossing white matter and in interfaces between large white matter tracts, where mu FA was high while FA was low. Both tumor types exhibited a low FA, in contrast to the mu FA which was high in the meningioma and low in the glioblastoma, indicating that the meningioma contained disordered anisotropic structures, while the glioblastoma did not. This interpretation was confirmed by histological examination. We conclude that FA from DTI reflects both the amount of diffusion anisotropy and orientation dispersion. We suggest that the mu FA and OP may complement FA by independently quantifying the microscopic anisotropy and the level of orientation coherence. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.


  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging
  • Diffusion weighted imaging
  • Microscopic anisotropy
  • Microscopic
  • fractional anisotropy
  • Order parameter
  • Magic angle spinning of the
  • q-vector


  • Multidimensional microstructure imaging
  • Advanced MR imaging in brain diseases
  • ISSN: 1095-9572
Freddy Ståhlberg
E-mail: freddy [dot] stahlberg [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se


Medical Radiation Physics, Lund

+46 46 17 31 19

+46 70 688 31 19



Diagnostic Radiology, (Lund)

+46 46 17 70 30


Project manager

MR Physics