Brain Communications, 2(3), 2021
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Abstract The cerebellum is a complex system with distinct cortical laminar organization. Alterations in cerebellar microstructure are common and associated with many factors such as genetics, cancer and ageing. Diffusion MRI (dMRI) provides a non-invasive tool to map the brain structural organization, and the recently proposed diffusion-time (td)-dependent dMRI further improves its capability to probe the cellular and axonal/dendritic microstructures by measuring water diffusion at multiple spatial scales. The td-dependent diffusion profile in the cerebellum and its utility in detecting cerebellar disorders, however, are not yet elucidated. Here, we first deciphered the spatial correspondence between dMRI contrast and cerebellar layers, based on which the cerebellar layer-specific td-dependent dMRI patterns were characterized in both euploid and Ts65Dn mice, a mouse model of Down syndrome. Using oscillating gradient dMRI, which accesses diffusion at short td’s by modulating the oscillating frequency, we detected subtle changes in the apparent diffusivity coefficient of the cerebellar internal granular layer and Purkinje cell layer of Ts65Dn mice that were not detectable by conventional pulsed gradient dMRI. The detection sensitivity of oscillating gradient dMRI increased with the oscillating frequency at both the neonatal and adult stages. The td-dependence, quantified by ΔADC map, was reduced in Ts65Dn mice, likely associated with the reduced granule cell density and abnormal dendritic arborization of Purkinje cells as revealed from histological evidence. Our study demonstrates superior sensitivity of short-td diffusion using oscillating gradient dMRI to detect cerebellar microstructural changes in Down syndrome, suggesting the potential application of this technique in cerebellar disorders.