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MRI Monitors Children’s Recovery from Reversible Brain Disease

Diffusion weighted imaging visualizes white matter lesions associated with mild encephalitis.

By
Janelle Weaver, Contributor
Monday, August 6, 2018

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U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joan Kretschmer

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MRI is a highly sensitive imaging technique for visualizing abnormalities in white matter, which consists of nerve fibers in the brain. In a study published July 16 in the American Journal of Pediatrics, researchers evaluated 11 children with mild encephalitis/encephalopathy with reversible splenial lesion (MERS) at Shanxi Province Children Hospital in China, using MRI over a three-year span. This brain disease, which is often caused by an infection, is characterized by a reversible lesion in the splenial region of the corpus callosum -- a broad band of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

The researchers found that MRI detected these lesions in all patients. After the children were treated, MRI revealed that the lesions disappeared. In particular, the researchers noted the value of diffusion weighted imaging (DWI). This technique, which exploits the diffusion of the water molecules to visualize tissues, is well-suited for imaging white matter. Water diffusion in white matter is faster in the direction of the fibers and slower perpendicular to them. According to the authors, the findings show that doctors can diagnose MERS based on MRI examinations, and the DWI sequence is indispensable.