This form of MRI measures how water molecules diffuse through body tissues. Certain disease processes — such as a stroke or tumor — can restrict this diffusion, so this method is often used to diagnose them, Filippi said. Diffusion MRI has only been around for about 15 to 20 years, he added. In neurons, molecules tend to diffuse along neural fibers, so the direction of diffusion parallels the fibers themselves. A recent method called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allows researchers to measure diffusion in multiple directions, and can be used, for example, to map connectivity between brain areas.
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