Bridging the gap: improving correspondence between low-field and high-field magnetic resonance images in young people

Rebecca Cooper, Rebecca A. Hayes, Mary Corcoran, Kevin N. Sheth, Thomas Campbell Arnold, Joel M. Stein, David C. Glahn, Maria Jalbrzikowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Portable low-field-strength magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems represent a promising alternative to traditional high-field-strength systems with the potential to make MR technology available at scale in low-resource settings. However, lower image quality and resolution may limit the research and clinical potential of these devices. We tested two super-resolution methods to enhance image quality in a low-field MR system and compared their correspondence with images acquired from a high-field system in a sample of young people. Methods: T1- and T2-weighted structural MR images were obtained from a low-field (64mT) Hyperfine and high-field (3T) Siemens system in N = 70 individuals (mean age = 20.39 years, range 9–26 years). We tested two super-resolution approaches to improve image correspondence between images acquired at high- and low-field: (1) processing via a convolutional neural network (‘SynthSR’), and (2) multi-orientation image averaging. We extracted brain region volumes, cortical thickness, and cortical surface area estimates. We used Pearson correlations to test the correspondence between these measures, and Steiger Z tests to compare the difference in correspondence between standard imaging and super-resolution approaches. Results: Single pairs of T1- and T2-weighted images acquired at low field showed high correspondence to high-field-strength images for estimates of total intracranial volume, surface area cortical volume, subcortical volume, and total brain volume (r range = 0.60–0.88). Correspondence was lower for cerebral white matter volume (r = 0.32, p = 0.007, q = 0.009) and non-significant for mean cortical thickness (r = −0.05, p = 0.664, q = 0.664). Processing images with SynthSR yielded significant improvements in correspondence for total brain volume, white matter volume, total surface area, subcortical volume, cortical volume, and total intracranial volume (r range = 0.85–0.97), with the exception of global mean cortical thickness (r = 0.14). An alternative multi-orientation image averaging approach improved correspondence for cerebral white matter and total brain volume. Processing with SynthSR also significantly improved correspondence across widespread regions for estimates of cortical volume, surface area and subcortical volume, as well as within isolated prefrontal and temporal regions for estimates of cortical thickness. Conclusion: Applying super-resolution approaches to low-field imaging improves regional brain volume and surface area accuracy in young people. Finer-scale brain measurements, such as cortical thickness, remain challenging with the limited resolution of low-field systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1339223
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • low field MRI
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • pediatric neuroimaging
  • super-resolution
  • SynthSR


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