Complimentary aspects of diffusion imaging and fMRI: II. Elucidating contributions to the fMRI signal with diffusion sensitization.


Tissue water molecules reside in different biophysical compartments. For example, water molecules in the vasculature reside for variable periods of time within arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venuoles and veins, and may be within blood cells or blood plasma. Water molecules outside of the vasculature, in the extravascular space, reside, for a time, either within cells or within the interstitial space between cells. Within these different compartments, different types of microscopic motion that water molecules may experience have been identified and discussed. These range from Brownian diffusion to more coherent flow over the time scales relevant to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, on the order of several 10s of milliseconds. How these different types of motion are reflected in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods developed for "diffusion" imaging studies has been an ongoing and active area of research. Here we briefly review the ideas that have developed regarding these motions within the context of modern "diffusion" imaging techniques and, in particular, how they have been accessed in attempts to further our understanding of the various contributions to the fMRI signal changes sought in studies of human brain activation.