Locus Coeruleus magnetic resonance imaging: a comparison between native-space and template-space approach

F S Giorgi, N Martini, F Lombardo, A Galgani, L Bastiani, D Della Latta, H Hlavata, C L Busceti, F Biagioni, S Puglisi-Allegra, N Pavese, F Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Locus Coeruleus (LC) is the main noradrenergic nucleus of the brain, which is involved in many physiological functions including cognition; its impairment may be crucial in the neurobiology of a variety of brain diseases. Locus Coeruleus-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (LC-MRI) allows to identify in vivo LC in humans. Thus, a variety of research teams have been using LC-MRI to estimate LC integrity in normal aging and in patients affected by neurodegenerative disorders, where LC integrity my work as a biomarker. A number of variations between LC-MRI studies exist, concerning post-acquisition analysis and whether this had been performed within MRI native space or in ad hoc-built MRI template space. Moreover, the reproducibility and reliability of this tool is still to be explored. Therefore, in the present study, we analyzed a group of neurologically healthy, cognitively intact elderly subjects, using both a native space- and a template space-based LC-MRI analysis. We found a good inter-method agreement, particularly considering the LC Contrast Ratio. The template space-based approach provided a higher spatial resolution, lower operator-dependency, and allowed the analysis of LC topography. Our ad hoc-developed LC template showed LC morphological data that were in line with templates published very recently. Remarkably, present data significantly overlapped with a recently published LC "metaMask", that had been obtained by averaging the results of a variety of previous LC-MRI studies. Thus, such a template space-based approach may pave the way to a standardized LC-MRI analysis and to be used in future clinic-anatomical correlations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-394
JournalJ. Neural Transm.
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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