Skip to main content
This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

QUESTIONS
» Basic Physics

Where does the MRI signal come from? This section explores the basic physics of magnetic resonance imaging.

« Question list

MRI Signal Sources

Answer this...

What is T2*?

A time constant describing the exponential decay of signal, due to spin-spin interactions.

A time constant describing the loss of signal, due to spin-lattice interactions.

A time constant describing the exponential decay of signal, due to spin-spin interactions, magnetic field inhomogeneities, and susceptibility effects.

INCORRECT. This is the T2 time constant. T2 decay only describes effects which cause a loss of phase coherence (dephasing) which are irreversible. This includes pure spin-spin interactions, in which spins affect each other by their individual oscillating magnetic fields. This changes their frequency of precession (according to the Larmor equation), and they move out of phase.

Try again.

INCORRECT. Spin-"lattice" interactions are a T1 recovery process, and do not contribute to a loss of signal in the transverse plane (though spin-spin interaction can accompany spin-lattice interaction).

dephasing
Dephasing of spins causes Mxy to decay away. The rotating frame is shown

CORRECT. T2* is like T2, but with an extra dephasing effects included.

T2 includes only irreversible causes of a loss of phase coherence (dephasing) of the net magnetisation vectors which add up to make Mxy. These spin-spin interactions are at the atomic and molecular levels, in which spins affect each other by their individual oscillating magnetic fields. This changes their frequency of precession (according to the Larmor equation), and they move out of phase.

T2* includes dephasing caused by magnetic field inhomogeneities and susceptibility effects as well. These also cause variations in the magnetic field experienced by nuclear spins. This changes their frequency of precession even more, and they move out of phase much faster—a faster loss of signal.

FID
The FID decays with a T2* envelope in gradient echo imaging.

Dephasing effects included in T2* only (not in T2) are reversible in some circumstances, which is where this distinction is useful. Principally, T2* effects are reversed in one type of MRI imaging method: the spin echo pulse sequence. T2* describes a quicker loss of signal than T2; T2* is always smaller than T2.

T2 and T2* are related by the following equation:

1/T2* = 1/T2 + ½γΔB

where γ is the gyromagnetic ratio, and ΔB is the variation in magnetic field.

Thus, a magnet with good field homogeneity will allow T2* values to be closer to the true T2 values of tissues. A magnet with poor field homogeneity will cause T2* to be much shorter than T2, causing faster-decaying signal intensity and affecting image contrast.

Further reading on this topic:
Books: Q&A in MRI p36, MRI The Basics p47, MRI From Picture to Proton p38
Online: The Basics of MRI, e-MRI

« Back to Basic Physics question list

 
(This page: http://www.revisemri.com/questions/basicphysics/t2star)