High b-value diffusion-weighted imaging: a sensitive method to reveal white matter differences in schizophrenia
Over the last ten years, Diffusion-weighted Imaging (DWI) has become an important tool to investigate white matter (WM) anomalies in schizophrenia. Despite technological improvement and the exponential use of this technique, discrepancies remain and little is known about optimal parameters to apply for diffusion weighting during image acquisition. Specifically, high b-value diffusion weighted imaging known to be more sensitive to slow diffusion is not largely used even though subtle myelin alterations as thought to happen in schizophrenia are likely to affect slow diffusing protons. Schizophrenia patients and healthy controls were scanned with a high b-value (4000 s/mm2) protocol. Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) measures turned out to be very sensitive in detecting differences between schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers even in a relatively small sample. We speculate that this is related to the sensitivity of high b-value imaging to the slow diffusing compartment believed to reflect mainly the intra-axonal and myelin bound water pool. We also compared these results to a low b-value imaging experiment performed on the same population in the same scanning session. Even though the acquisition protocols are not strictly comparable, we noticed important differences in sensitivities in the favor of high b-value imaging, warranting further exploration.