Aging brain mechanics: Progress and promise of magnetic resonance elastography

Lucy V. Hiscox, Hillary Schwarb, Matthew D.J. McGarry, Curtis L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)


Neuroimaging techniques that can sensitivity characterize healthy brain aging and detect subtle neuropathologies have enormous potential to assist in the early detection of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) has recently emerged as a reliable, high-resolution, and especially sensitive technique that can noninvasively characterize tissue biomechanical properties (i.e., viscoelasticity) in vivo in the living human brain. Brain tissue viscoelasticity provides a unique biophysical signature of neuroanatomy that are representative of the composition and organization of the complex tissue microstructure. In this article, we detail how progress in brain MRE technology has provided unique insights into healthy brain aging, neurodegeneration, and structure-function relationships. We further discuss additional promising technical innovations that will enhance the specificity and sensitivity for brain MRE to reveal considerably more about brain aging as well as its potentially valuable role as an imaging biomarker of neurodegeneration. MRE sensitivity may be particularly useful for assessing the efficacy of rehabilitation strategies, assisting in differentiating between dementia subtypes, and in understanding the causal mechanisms of disease which may lead to eventual pharmacotherapeutic development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117889
Early online date19 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • Aging
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain
  • Mechanical properties
  • Neuroimaging
  • Stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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