Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H MRS): A Practical Guide for the Clinical Neuroscientist



Nuclear magnetic resonance emerged in the early 1970s as a tool for elucidating the structure of organic molecules. Since that time, its applications have since expanded into multiple other areas. In 1995, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for clinical use including differential diagnosis and treatment monitoring in medical conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. The principles of MRS are very similar to those of MRI. Briefly, MRS is founded on the observation that the nuclei of atoms with odd atomic numbers possess a small detectable magnetic field. According to the laws of electromagnetism, all moving charges constitute electrical currents, which generate magnetic fields in their neighborhoods, and thus cause the individual nuclei to possess a “magnetic moment.” In other words, the individual nuclei behave like magnetic dipoles and rotate around their axes or oscillate much like the Earth around its axis. The strength of this magnetic moment and oscillation frequency are unique to each nuclear species. The nuclei themselves are often referred to as “spins.” Under normal conditions, spins are randomly arranged; however, when exposed to a strong external magnetic field, such as the one created by the magnet of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, the spins align along the axis of the external field. While the spins are aligned with the external magnetic field, a radio frequency pulse at their resonance frequency can excite or “flip” the spins. After the pulse is discontinued, the nuclei relax or return to their original state, but in doing so, these oscillating spins generate a weak magnetic field that is detected by special coils. The signal detected by these coils is called the free induction decay or FID. In the case of MRI, the signal from the highly abundant water molecules in the brain is reconstructed into an image providing structural information about the tissue sample using a mathematical process called Fast Fourier Transformation. The location of various water molecules is spatially encoded through an imposed frequency distribution with the help of additional magnetic gradients.


Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Free Induction Decay Water Suppression Radio Frequency Pulse Brain Gray Matter 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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