A prominently decreased signal intensity in the globus pallidum, reticula substantia nigra, red nucleus, and dentate nucleus was routinely noted in 150 consecutive individuals on T2-weighted images (SE 2000/100) using a high field strength (1.5 T) MR system. This MR finding correlated closely with the decreased estimated T2 relaxation times and the sites of preferential accumulation of ferric iron using the Perls staining method on normal postmortem brains. The decreased signal intensity on T2-weighted images thus provides an accurate in vivo map of the normal distribution of brain iron. Perls stain and MR studies in normal brain also confirm an intermediate level of iron distribution in the striatum, and still lower levels in the cerebral gray and white matter. In the white matter, iron concentration is (a) absent in the most posterior portion of the internal capsule and optic radiations, (b) higher in the frontal than occipital regions, and (c) prominent in the subcortical 'U' fibers, particularly in the temporal lobe. There is no iron in the brain at birth; it increases progressively with aging. Knownledge of the distribution of brain iron should assist in elucidating normal anatomic structures and in understanding neurodegenerative, demyelinating, and cerebrovascular disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging