July 1992

Biological Significance of Iron-Related Magnetic Resonance Imaging Changes in the Brain

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, Sta Creu and St Pau Hospital, Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) (Drs Pujol, Grau, and Martí-Vilalta); Departments of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology (Drs Junqué and Vendrell) and of Applied Mathematics (Dr Olivé), University of Barcelona; and the Magnetic Resonance Medical Center of Barcelona (Dr Gili).

Arch Neurol. 1992;49(7):711-717. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530310053012

• Iron, an essential element for basic cellular metabolism, regularly accumulates in certain brain areas in normal subjects and in patients with certain diseases. Magnetic resonance imaging can depict iron deposition, offering a singular opportunity to correlate the regional iron content with the functional status of the human brain in vivo. We studied the relationship between age and the iron-related signal loss on T2-weighted images in basal ganglia, and observed a strongly significant signal decrease in the globus pallidus at the age of brain development (first two decades of life), but we found no such decrease in later years. Moreover, in healthy adults, subject-to-subject variability was relevant in changes due to iron deposition in magnetic resonance imaging. We found increased signal loss to be associated with poor performance on motor and specific cognitive tasks, suggesting that these image changes can provide functional information with respect to the brain in normal subjects.