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Title: Motion robust acquisition and reconstruction of quantitative T2* maps in the developing brain
Author: Vasylechko, Serhiy
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 2598
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2019
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The goal of the research presented in this thesis was to develop methods for quantitative T2* mapping of the developing brain. Brain maturation in the early period of life involves complex structural and physiological changes caused by synaptogenesis, myelination and growth of cells. Molecular structures and biological processes give rise to varying levels of T2* relaxation time, which is an inherent contrast mechanism in magnetic resonance imaging. The knowledge of T2* relaxation times in the brain can thus help with evaluation of pathology by establishing its normative values in the key areas of the brain. T2* relaxation values are a valuable biomarker for myelin microstructure and iron concentration, as well as an important guide towards achievement of optimal fMRI contrast. However, fetal MR imaging is a significant step up from neonatal or adult MR imaging due to the complexity of the acquisition and reconstruction techniques that are required to provide high quality artifact-free images in the presence of maternal respiration and unpredictable fetal motion. The first contribution of this thesis, described in Chapter 4, presents a novel acquisition method for measurement of fetal brain T2* values. At the time of publication, this was the first study of fetal brain T2* values. Single shot multi-echo gradient echo EPI was proposed as a rapid method for measuring fetal T2* values by effectively freezing intra-slice motion. The study concluded that fetal T2* values are higher than those previously reported for pre-term neonates and decline with a consistent trend across gestational age. The data also suggested that longer than usual echo times or direct T2* measurement should be considered when performing fetal fMRI in order to reach optimal BOLD sensitivity. For the second contribution, described in Chapter 5, measurements were extended to a higher field strength of 3T and reported, for the first time, both for fetal and neonatal subjects at this field strength. The technical contribution of this work is a fully automatic segmentation framework that propagates brain tissue labels onto the acquired T2* maps without the need for manual intervention. The third contribution, described in Chapter 6, proposed a new method for performing 3D fetal brain reconstruction where the available data is sparse and is therefore limited in the use of current state of the art techniques for 3D brain reconstruction in the presence of motion. To enable a high resolution reconstruction, a generative adversarial network was trained to perform image to image translation between T2 weighted and T2* weighted data. Translated images could then be served as a prior for slice alignment and super resolution reconstruction of 3D brain image.
Supervisor: Rueckert, Daniel Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral