Visualization of Neural Targets With 3T MRI

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  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University Health Network, Toronto
Updated on 25 March 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


Functional neurosurgery is dedicated to modulating aberrant neural circuits associated with a wide range of neurological conditions. Recently, technological advances in MRI have permitted marked improvements in the direct visualization of neural targets, which is necessary for the accurate targeting in functional neurosurgery procedures.

This research study focuses on imaging patient brains before their scheduled procedures by using a 3 tesla (T) MRI to provide higher resolution and quality brain images. The reason for this study is to assess the image quality using different MRI sequences or settings to improve the image resolution of the most common functional neurosurgery targets (e.g., subthalamic nucleus, globus pallidus, and thalamus) and compare the image quality of the brains in patients with healthy controls. Performing a preoperative MRI is standard-of-care for patients indicated for deep brain stimulation (DBS), gamma knife radiosurgery (GKRS), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). MRI sequence parameters shown to improve the image quality of different neural structures in a recent literature review (Boutet et al. 2021) will be reproduced on the 3T MRI at Toronto Western Hospital.


This is an exploratory prospective experimental study that will assess the ability of different MRI sequences to visualize common functional neurosurgical targets. Some neural structures (i.e., STN) are sometimes not visualized as well, particularly in older patients, when compared to healthy controls. The findings from this study should help in identifying the advanced sequences for direct visualization of these targets, that could then be used for improved preoperative planning of functional neurosurgical procedures.

Several advanced MRI sequences will be conducted when imaging patients or healthy participant. All advanced sequences have previously been published in the literature as viable, safe preoperative planning sequences for functional neurosurgical treatments at other centres. All MRI scans in this study will be acquired at the Toronto Western Hospital (TWH). For example, structural scans using sequences that can null or not receive signals from fluids in the brain and reduce geometric distortion (i.e., fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR)), null white matter signals (i.e., fast gray matter acquisition T1 inversion recovery (FGATIR)), and enhance the visualization of iron concentrated neural structures (i.e., quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM)) will be performed. These advanced sequences will be compared to conventional structural MRI sequences (i.e., T1-weighted (T1W) or T2-weighted (T2W)) that are typically used for anatomical purposes and direct visualization of neural structures.

Ultimately, results from this study should enhance quality of care, clinical benefits, and data quality.

Condition Neuro-Degenerative Disease
Treatment MRI
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05175417
SponsorUniversity Health Network, Toronto
Last Modified on25 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Age between 18 and 85 years of age
Preparing to undergo a functional neurosurgical intervention (e.g., DBS, RFA, GKR or MRgFUS) at TWH (not applicable for healthy volunteers)
Participants must be able to understand the purpose of this research and must sign the informed consent form
Participants must understand that the role of this research is to enhance our understanding of brain functioning and that he/she will not directly or indirectly benefit from the study

Exclusion Criteria

Contraindication for an MRI (e.g., implanted cardiac device, metal in eyes, aneurysm clip, etc.)
Participants who have serious cognitive or psychological impairments and cannot give informed consent
Participants who are unable to communicate effectively or efficiently (e.g., patients suffering from speech deficits (dysarthria, aphasia) or are non-English speaking)
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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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