European Radiology

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 1568–1576 | Cite as

Evaluation of brain ageing: a quantitative longitudinal MRI study over 7 years

  • René-Maxime Gracien
  • Lucas Nürnberger
  • Pavel Hok
  • Stephanie-Michelle Hof
  • Sarah C. Reitz
  • Udo Rüb
  • Helmuth Steinmetz
  • Rüdiger Hilker-Roggendorf
  • Johannes C. Klein
  • Ralf Deichmann
  • Simon Baudrexel
Magnetic Resonance



T1 relaxometry is a promising tool for the assessment of microstructural changes during brain ageing. Previous cross-sectional studies demonstrated increasing T1 values in white and decreasing T1 values in grey matter over the lifetime. However, these findings have not yet been confirmed on the basis of a longitudinal study. In this longitudinal study over 7 years, T1 relaxometry was used to investigate the dynamics of age-related microstructural changes in older healthy subjects.


T1 mapping was performed in 17 healthy subjects (range 51–77 years) at baseline and after 7 years. Advanced cortical and white matter segmentation was used to determine mean T1 values in the cortex and white matter.


The analysis revealed a decrease of mean cortical T1 values over 7 years, the rate of T1 reduction being more prominent in subjects with higher age. T1 decreases were predominantly localized in the lateral frontal, parietal and temporal cortex. In contrast, mean white matter T1 values remained stable.


T1 mapping is shown to be sensitive to age-related microstructural changes in healthy ageing subjects in a longitudinal setting. Data of a cohort in late adulthood and the senescence period demonstrate a decrease of cortical T1 values over 7 years, most likely reflecting decreasing water content and increased iron concentrations.

Key Points

T1 mapping is sensitive to age-related microstructural changes in a longitudinal setting.

T1 decreases were predominantly localized in the lateral frontal, parietal and temporal cortex.

The rate of T1 reduction was more prominent in subjects with higher age.

These changes most likely reflect decreasing cortical water and increasing iron concentrations.


Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging T1 relaxation Ageing Cerebral cortex White matter 



Cerebrospinal fluid


FMRIB Software Library


Gradient echo


Grey matter


Montreal Neurological Institute


Magnetization-prepared rapid gradient-echo


Magnetic resonance imaging


Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging


Radio frequency


Region of interest


White matter



The scientific guarantor of this publication is Simon Baudrexel. The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies relevant to this study:

Dr R.M. Gracien has received travel funding from Roche.

Dr L. Nürnberger has received travel funding from TEVA, Allergan and Dysport.

Dr P. Hok was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Dr Rüb has received funding from Dr. Senckenbergische Stiftung, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

Dr H. Steinmetz has received speaker’s honoraria from Bayer, Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Dr R. Hilker-Roggendorf has received speaker honoraria from Medtronic, Orion, GlaxoSmithKline, TEVA, Cephalon, Solvay, Desitin, and Boehringer Ingelheim as well as travel funding from Medtronic and Cephalon. He serves or has served on a scientific advisory board for Cephalon and has received research funding from the Deutsche Parkinson Vereinigung (dPV), Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and Goethe-University Frankfurt.

Dr J.C. Klein received speaker honoraria and travel reimbursement from Medtronic, AstraZeneca, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie.

Dr R. Deichmann received compensation as a Consultant for MR scanner procurement by the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, London, UK.

Dr S. Baudrexel has received research funding from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and travel funding from UCB Pharma.

This study has received funding by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung [DLR 01GO0203; Brain Imaging Center Frankfurt] and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [DFG CRC-TR 128; Dr Deichmann].

One of the authors has significant statistical expertise.

Institutional review board approval was obtained.

Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects in this study.

Data from some study subjects have been previously reported in Baudrexel S, Nürnberger L et al. Quantitative mapping of T1 and T2* discloses nigral and brainstem pathology in early Parkinson’s disease. NeuroImage 2010; 51(2):512–20.

Methodology: prospective, observational study performed at one institution.

Supplementary material

330_2016_4485_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (2.1 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 1

Top T1 data sets for a representative subject in 2008 on the left side and 2015 on the right side (z = 19.00). Bottom the respective normalized histograms in 2008 (left) and 2015 (right). The grey matter peak has been marked with a red line (JPG 2190 kb)


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • René-Maxime Gracien
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lucas Nürnberger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pavel Hok
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stephanie-Michelle Hof
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sarah C. Reitz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Udo Rüb
    • 4
  • Helmuth Steinmetz
    • 1
  • Rüdiger Hilker-Roggendorf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johannes C. Klein
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ralf Deichmann
    • 2
  • Simon Baudrexel
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyGoethe UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  2. 2.Brain Imaging CenterGoethe UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyPalacky UniversityOlomoucCzech Republic
  4. 4.Dr. Senckenberg Chronomedical InstituteGoethe UniversityFrankfurt/MainGermany
  5. 5.Nuffield Department of Clinical NeurosciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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