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Basic Science Seminars in Neurology
August 1999

Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Diagnosis and Management of Cerebral Disorders

Author Affiliations

From the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario (Ms Rudkin); and Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec (Dr Arnold).



Arch Neurol. 1999;56(8):919-926. doi:10.1001/archneur.56.8.919

The use of magnetism in medicine has a long and colorful history since its legendary discovery in the Western world by the shepherd Magnes. More recent use of magnetism has centered on nuclear magnetic resonance. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) provides chemical information on tissue metabolites. Both hydrogen 1 (1H) and phosphorus 31 resonances have been used to study brain tissue, but the magnetic resonance sensitivity for protons is far greater than it is for phosphorus. One of the most important contributions of 1H-MRS to clinical neurology is its ability to quantify neuronal loss and to demonstrate reversible neuronal damage. 1H–magnetic resonance spectroscopy has been found to be a useful research tool in elucidating the pathophysiology underlying certain diseases. This review focuses on the use of proton MRS to study various neurologic diseases, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, human immunodeficiency virus 1–associated neurologic disorders, as well as cerebrovascular, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases. It highlights the contributions of 1H-MRS to the diagnosis and the monitoring of these neurologic diseases that make it a useful adjunct in patient management.