Accessible pediatric neuroimaging using a low field strength MRI scanner

Deoni SCL, Bruchhage MMK, Beauchemin J, Volpe A, D’Sa V, Huentelman M, Williams SCR. Accessible pediatric neuroimaging using a low field strength MRI scanner. NeuroImage, Volume 238, September 2021, 118273,

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has played an increasingly relevant role in understanding infant, child, and adolescent neurodevelopment, providing new insight into developmental patterns in neurotypical development, as well as those associated with potential psychopathology, learning disorders, and other neurological conditions. In addition, studies have shown the impact of a child’s physical and psychosocial environment on developing brain structure and function. A rate-limiting complication in these studies, however, is the high cost and infrastructural requirements of modern MRI systems. High costs mean many neuroimaging studies typically include fewer than 100 individuals and are performed predominately in high resource hospitals and university settings within high income countries (HICs). As a result, our knowledge of brain development, particularly in children who live in lower and middle income countries (LMICs) is relatively limited. Low field systems, with magnetic fields less than 100mT offer the promise of lower scanning costs and wide-spread global adoption, but routine low field pediatric neuroimaging has yet to be demonstrated. Here we present the first pediatric MRI data collected on a low cost and assessable 64mT scanner in children 6 weeks to 16 years of age and replicate brain volumes estimates and developmental trajectories derived from 3T MRI data. While preliminary, these results illustrate the potential of low field imaging as a viable complement to more conventional high field imaging systems, and one that may further enhance our knowledge of neurodevelopment in LMICs where malnutrition, psychosocial adversities, and other environmental exposures may profoundly affect brain maturation.