Deep Learning of MRI Contrast Enhancement for Mapping Cerebral Blood Volume from Single-Modal Non-Contrast Scans of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Brains


While MRI contrast agents such as those based on Gadolinium are needed for high-resolution mapping of brain metabolism, these contrast agents require intravenous administration, and there are rising concerns over their safety and invasiveness. Furthermore, non-contrast MRI scans are more commonly performed than those with contrast agents and are readily available for analysis in public databases such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). In this paper, we hypothesize that a deep learning model, trained using quantitative steady-state contrast-enhanced structural MRI datasets, in mice and humans, can generate contrast-equivalent information from a single non-contrast MRI scan. The model was first trained, optimized, and validated in mice, and was then transferred and adapted to humans. We observe that the model can substitute for Gadolinium-based contrast agents in approximating cerebral blood volume, a quantitative representation of brain activity, at sub-millimeter granularity. Furthermore, we validate the use of our deep-learned prediction maps to identify functional abnormalities in the aging brain using locally obtained MRI scans, and in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients using publicly available MRI scans from ADNI. Since it is derived from a commonly-acquired MRI protocol, this framework has the potential for broad clinical utility and can also be applied retrospectively to research scans across a host of neurological/functional diseases.

In Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Chen Liu
Chen Liu
PhD Student in Computer Science

Researcher in machine learning and healthcare.