Comparing 3 T and 1.5 T MRI for tracking Alzheimer's disease progression with tensor-based morphometry

April J. Ho, Xue Hua, Suh Lee, Alex D. Leow, Igor Yanovsky, Boris Gutman, Ivo D. Dinov, Natasha Leporé, Jason L. Stein, Arthur W. Toga, Clifford R. Jack, Matt A. Bernstein, Eric M. Reiman, Danielle J. Harvey, John Kornak, Norbert Schuff, Gene E. Alexander, Michael W. Weiner, Paul M. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


A key question in designing MRI-based clinical trials is how the main magnetic field strength of the scanner affects the power to detect disease effects. In 110 subjects scanned longitudinally at both 3.0 and 1.5 T, including 24 patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) [74.8 ± 9.2 years, MMSE: 22.6 ± 2.0 at baseline], 51 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) [74.1 ± 8.0 years, MMSE: 26.6 ± 2.0], and 35 controls [75.9 ± 4.6 years, MMSE: 29.3 ± 0.8], we assessed whether higher-field MR imaging offers higher or lower power to detect longitudinal changes in the brain, using tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to reveal the location of progressive atrophy. As expected, at both field strengths, progressive atrophy was widespread in AD and more spatially restricted in MCI. Power analysis revealed that, to detect a 25% slowing of atrophy (with 80% power), 37 AD and 108 MCI subjects would be needed at 1.5 T versus 49 AD and 166 MCI subjects at 3 T; however, the increased power at 1.5 T was not statistically significant (α = 0.05) either for TBM, or for SIENA, a related method for computing volume loss rates. Analysis of cumulative distribution functions and false discovery rates showed that, at both field strengths, temporal lobe atrophy rates were correlated with interval decline in Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog), mini-mental status exam (MMSE), and Clinical Dementia Rating sum-of-boxes (CDR-SB) scores. Overall, 1.5 and 3 T scans did not significantly differ in their power to detect neurodegenerative changes over a year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-514
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Field strength
  • MRI
  • Tensor-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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