Magnetic resonance imaging, microscopy, and spectroscopy of the central nervous system in experimental animals

Istvan Pirko, Stanley Thomas Fricke, Aaron J. Johnson, Moses Rodriguez, Slobodan I. Macura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Over the last two decades, microscopic resolution in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques have been developed and extensively used in the study of animal models of human diseases. Standard MRI methods are frequently used in clinical studies and in the general clinical practice of human neurological diseases. This generates a need for similar studies in experimental animal research. Because small rodents are the most commonly used species as animal models of neurological diseases, the MRI techniques need to be able to provide microscopic resolution and high signal-to-noise ratio images in relatively short time. Small animal MRI systems use very high field-strength magnets, which results in higher signal to noise ratio; however, the contrast characteristics of live tissue are different at these field strengths. In addition to standard MRI techniques, several new applications have been implemented in experimental animals, including diffusion and perfusion studies, MR angiography, functional MRI studies, MRI tractography, proton and phosphorous spectroscopy, cellular and molecular imaging using novel contrast methods. Here we give an overview of how to establish a small animal imaging facility with the goal of CNS imaging. We describe the basic physical processes leading to MR signal generation, highlighting the differences between standard clinical MRI and small animal MRI. Finally, typical findings in the most common neurological disease categories and novel MRI/magnetic resonance spectroscopy methods used in their study are also described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-264
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • And phosphorous MRS
  • MR microscopy
  • MR spectroscopy
  • Microscopic resolution MRI
  • Proton
  • Small animal MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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