J Magn Reson 2019 02 8;299:176-187. Epub 2019 Jan 8.
CMAP - Center for Applied Mathematics, Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France. Electronic address:
The Bloch-Torrey partial differential equation can be used to describe the evolution of the transverse magnetization of the imaged sample under the influence of diffusion-encoding magnetic field gradients inside the MRI scanner. The integral of the magnetization inside a voxel gives the simulated diffusion MRI signal. This paper proposes a finite element discretization on manifolds in order to efficiently simulate the diffusion MRI signal in domains that have a thin layer or a thin tube geometrical structure. The variable thickness of the three-dimensional domains is included in the weak formulation established on the manifolds. We conducted a numerical study of the proposed approach by simulating the diffusion MRI signals from the extracellular space (a thin layer medium) and from neurons (a thin tube medium), comparing the results with the reference signals obtained using a standard three-dimensional finite element discretization. We show good agreements between the simulated signals using our proposed method and the reference signals for a wide range of diffusion MRI parameters. The approximation becomes better as the diffusion time increases. The method helps to significantly reduce the required simulation time, computational memory, and difficulties associated with mesh generation, thus opening the possibilities to simulating complicated structures at low cost for a better understanding of diffusion MRI in the brain.