, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 316–329 | Cite as

Diffusion tensor imaging of the brain

  • Andrew L. AlexanderEmail author
  • Jee Eun Lee
  • Mariana Lazar
  • Aaron S. Field


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a promising method for characterizing microstructural changes or differences with neuropathology and treatment. The diffusion tensor may be used to characterize the magnitude, the degree of anisotropy, and the orientation of directional diffusion. This review addresses the biological mechanisms, acquisition, and analysis of DTI measurements. The relationships between DTI measures and white matter pathologic features (e.g., ischemia, myelination, axonal damage, inflammation, and edema) are summarized. Applications of DTI to tissue characterization in neurotherapeutic applications are reviewed. The interpretations of common DTI measures (mean diffusivity, MD; fractional anisotropy, FA; radial diffusivity, D r; and axial diffusivity, D a) are discussed. In particular, FA is highly sensitive to microstructural changes, but not very specific to the type of changes (e.g., radial or axial). To maximize the specificity and better characterize the tissue microstructure, future studies should use multiple diffusion tensor measures (e.g., MD and FA, or D a and D r).

Key Words

Diffusion tensor imaging white matter diffusivity MRI brain fractional anisotropy 


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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew L. Alexander
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Jee Eun Lee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mariana Lazar
    • 5
    • 6
  • Aaron S. Field
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Medical PhysicsUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison
  4. 4.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison
  5. 5.Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Waisman CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadison
  6. 6.Center for Biomedical Imaging, Radiology DepartmentNew York University School of MedicineNew York

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