Q-ball imaging (QBI) is an imaging technique that is capable of resolving intravoxel fiber crossings; however, the signal readout based on echo-planar imaging (EPI) introduces geometric distortions in the presence of susceptibility gradients. This study proposes an imaging technique that reduces susceptibility distortions in QBI by short-axis PROPELLER EPI acquisition. Conventional QBI and PROPELLER QBI data were acquired from two 3T MR scans of the brains of five healthy subjects. Prior to the PROPELLER reconstruction, residual distortions in single-blade low-resolution b0 and diffusion-weighted images (DWIs) were minimized by linear affine and nonlinear diffeomorphic demon registrations. Subsequently, the PROPELLER keyhole reconstruction was applied to the corrected DWIs to obtain high-resolution PROPELLER DWIs. The generalized fractional anisotropy and orientation distribution function maps contained fewer distortions in PROPELLER QBI than in conventional QBI, and the fiber tracts more closely matched the brain anatomy depicted by turbo spin-echo (TSE) T2-weighted imaging (T2WI). Furthermore, for fixed TE, PROPELLER QBI enabled a shorter scan time than conventional QBI. We conclude that PROPELLER QBI can reduce susceptibility distortions without lengthening the acquisition time and is suitable for tracing neuronal fiber tracts in the human brain.
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