On random walks and entropy in diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging studies of neural tissue

Carson Ingo, Richard L. Magin, Luis Colon-Perez, William Triplett, Thomas H. Mareci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Purpose In diffusion-weighted MRI studies of neural tissue, the classical model assumes the statistical mechanics of Brownian motion and predicts a monoexponential signal decay. However, there have been numerous reports of signal decays that are not monoexponential, particularly in the white matter. Theory We modeled diffusion in neural tissue from the perspective of the continuous time random walk. The characteristic diffusion decay is represented by the Mittag-Leffler function, which relaxes a priori assumptions about the governing statistics. We then used entropy as a measure of the anomalous features for the characteristic function. Methods Diffusion-weighted MRI experiments were performed on a fixed rat brain using an imaging spectrometer at 17.6 T with b-values arrayed up to 25,000 s/mm2. Additionally, we examined the impact of varying either the gradient strength, q, or mixing time, Δ, on the observed diffusion dynamics. Results In white and gray matter regions, the Mittag-Leffler and entropy parameters demonstrated new information regarding subdiffusion and produced different image contrast from that of the classical diffusion coefficient. The choice of weighting on q and Δ produced different image contrast within the regions of interest. Conclusion We propose these parameters have the potential as biomarkers for morphology in neural tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-627
Number of pages11
JournalMagnetic Resonance in Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • anomalous diffusion
  • entropy
  • fractional order derivative
  • random walk


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