Glossary of MRI Terms

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Absorption mode.

Component of the MR signal that yields a symmetric, positive-valued line shape.

Acceleration factor

. The multiplicative term by which faster imaging pulse sequences such as multiple echo imaging reduce total imaging time compared to conventional imaging sequences such as spin echo imaging.

Acoustic noise.

Vibrations of the gradient coil support structures create sound waves. These vibrations are caused by interactions of the magnetic field created by pulses of the current through the gradient coil with the main magnetic field in a manner similar to a loudspeaker coil. Sound pressure is reported on a logarithmic scale called sound-pressure level expressed in decibels (dB) referenced to the weakest audible 1,000 Hz sound pressure of 2×10–5 pascal. Sound level meters contain filters that simulate the ear’s frequency response. The most commonly used filter provides what is called A weighting, with the letter A appended to the dB units, i.e., dBA.

Acquisition matrix.

Number of independent data samples in each direction, e.g., in 2DFT imaging it is the number of samples in the phase-encoding and frequency-encoding directions, and in reconstruction from projections imaging it is the number of samples in time and angle. The acquisition matrix may be asymmetric and of different size than the reconstructed image or display matrix, e.g., with zero filling or interpolation, or (for asymmetric sampling) by exploiting the symmetry of the data matrix. For symmetric sampling, the acquisition matrix will roughly equal the ratio of image field of view to spatial resolution along the corresponding direction (depending on filtering and other processing).

Acquisition Time.

See Image acquisition time.

Acquisition window.

Time in the MR pulse sequence during which the MR signal is recorded. The duration can be denoted TAD (for “time of analog to digital conversion“).

Active shielding.

Magnetic shielding through the use of secondary shielding coils designed to produce a magnetic field that cancels the field from primary coils in regions where it is not desired, e.g., outside the bore of the magnet. These active shielding coils may be located inside the magnet cryostat. Active shielding can be applied to the main magnet or to the gradient magnetic fields. See also Magnetic shielding, self-shielding, and room shielding.

Active shimming.

Shimming is the process of making the magnetic field more uniform by suitably adjusting the currents in shim coils.


See Analog to digital converter.

Adiabatic fast passage (AFP).

Technique of producing rotation of the macroscopic magnetization vector by sweeping the frequency of an irradiating RF wave (or the strength of the magnetic field) through resonance (the Larmor frequency) in a time short compared to the relaxation times. Particularly used for inversion of the spins. A continuous wave MR technique.

Adiabatic rapid passage

. See Adiabatic fast passage.


. See Adiabatic fast passage.


. Consequence of sampling the MR signal in which any components of the signal that are at a higher frequency than the Nyquist limit will be “folded” in the spectrum so that they appear to be at a lower frequency. In Fourier transform imaging this can produce an apparent wrapping around to the opposite side within the image of a portion of the object that extends beyond the edge of the reconstructed region.

Analog to digital converter (ADC)

. Part of the interface that converts ordinary (analog) signals, such as the current in an MR receiver coil, into a digital number form, that can be stored and read by the computer. Also commonly termed digitizer.


. Application of MRI to produce images of blood vessels, for example with flow effect or relaxation time differences. Some common approaches use the washout of saturated spins from a region by blood flow to increase the relative intensity of blood vessels within images or use the variable sensitivity to motion-induced phase shifts provided by adjusting gradient moments to discriminate against the signal from stationary tissue.

Angular frequency (


. Frequency of oscillation or rotation (measured, e.g., in radians/second) commonly designated by the Greek letter omega: ω = 2πf, where f is frequency in hertz (Hz).

Angular momentum

. A vector quantity given by the vector product of the momentum of a particle and its position vector. In the absence of external forces, the angular momentum remains constant, with the result that any rotating body tends to maintain the same axis of rotation. In the presence of a torque applied to a rotating body in such a way as to change the direction of the rotation axis, the resulting change in angular momentum results in precession. Atomic nuclei possess an intrinsic angular momentum referred to as spin, measured in multiples of Planck’s constant.


. A description of the factors used in creating an MR image. Appropriate annotation should include the type and times of the pulse sequence, the number of signals averaged or added (NSA), the size of the reconstructed region, the size of the acquisition matrix in each direction, and the slice thickness.


. Device to send or receive electromagnetic radiation. In the MR context, it is preferable to think of fields rather than electromagnetic radiation, as it is the magnetic vector alone that couples the spins and the coils, and the term coil should be used instead.


. Multiplication of acquired MR data by a function smoothly tapering off at higher spatial frequencies so as to reduce “ringing” artifacts near edges in the corresponding image or spectrum due to truncation and Gibbs phenomenon. It is a form of filtering.

Array coil

. RF coil composed of multiple separate elements that can be used individually (switchable coil) or used simultaneously. When used simultaneously, the elements can either be: 1) electrically coupled to each other (“coupled array coils“), through common transmission lines or mutual inductance, or 2) electrically isolated from each other (“isolated array coils“), with separate transmission lines and receivers and minimum effective mutual inductance, and with the signals from each transmission line processed independently or at different frequencies.

Array processor

. Optional component of the computer system specially designed to speed up numerical calculations like those needed in MR imaging.


. False features in the image produced by the imaging process. The random fluctuation of intensity due to noise can be considered separately from artifacts.

Asymmetric sampling.

The collection of more data points on one side of the k-space origin than on the other. With fewer k-space data points prior to the center (echo) a shorter echo time can be attained. Asymmetric acquisition in any phase encoding direction followed by partial-Fourier reconstruction leads to a reduction in imaging time.


. Reduction of power, e.g., due to passage through a medium or electrical component. Attenuation in electrical systems is commonly expressed in dB.


Device which reduces a signal by a specific amount, commonly given in dB.

Axial plane.

See Transverse plane or transaxial plane.


A means for optimizing the tuning and matching of RF coils under different loading conditions without operator intervention. For large, high-power coils such as body coils, autotuning involves the adjustment of variable capacitors using electric or hydraulic motors. For low power coils, the tuning elements are most often variable capacitance diodes (varactors) fed by a computer-generated variable voltage.




. A conventional symbol for the constant magnetic (induction) field in an MR system. (Although historically used, Ho (units of magnetic field strength, ampere/meter) should be distinguished from the more appropriate Bo [units of magnetic induction, tesla].)



. A conventional symbol for the radiofrequency magnetic induction field used in an MR system (another symbol historically used is H1). It is useful to consider it as composed of two oppositely rotating vectors, usually in a plane transverse to Bo. At the Larmor frequency, the vector rotating in the same direction as the precessing spins will interact strongly with the spins.


See Blood oxygen level dependent effect.

Balanced gradient.

A gradient waveform which will act on any stationary spin on resonance between two consecutive RF pulses and return it to the same phase it had before the gradients were applied.

Balanced steady-state free precession.

An MR gradient echo pulse sequence designed to produce contrast weighted by the T2/T1 ratio, with higher SNR and reduced artifacts compared to SSFP. Typically, TR is set to be as short as possible (short compared to the T2 values of the tissues of interest), TE is intermediate (approximately TR/2), and a flip angle of 45o to 90o is used to result in T2/T1-weighted SSFP images. Balanced SSFP sequences use specific “balanced” gradients to return the magnetization to the same phase it had before the gradients were applied, thus increasing signal and reducing artifacts. Specific vendor names for this sequence include True-Flash imaging with steady-state precession (True-FISP), fast

imaging employing steady-state acquisition (FIESTA), and balanced fast-field echo (balanced-FFE). See

Steady-state free precession.


. A general term referring to a range of frequencies (e.g., contained in a signal or passed by a signal processing system).


. A generally smooth background curve with respect to which either the integrals or peak heights of the resonance spectral lines in the spectrum are measured.

Baseline correction

. Processing of the spectrum to suppress baseline deviations from zero that may be superimposed on desired spectral lines. These deviations may be due either to various instrumental effects or to very broad spectral lines.

Bilateral imaging.

For symmetric anatomic features, such as breasts or temperomandibular joints (TMJ), imaging of both organs or anatomic features in the same imaging session.

Birdcage coil

. An RF volume coil designed to produce a homogeneous B1 field by using multiple parallel conductors symmetrically spaced around the surface of a cylinder, connected by end rings. These are turned into low pass or high pass filter sections by adding capacitors in each conductor, or between each conductor in the end rings, so that at resonance there is a resulting homogeneous B1 field. When the B1 field is circularly polarized, the structure can be used as a quadrature coil.

Bloch equations

. Phenomenological “classical” equations of motion for the macroscopic magnetization vector. They include the effects of precession about the magnetic field (static and RF) and the T1 and T2 relaxation times.

Blood oxygen level dependent effect (BOLD)

. A change in MRI-measurable signal caused by changes in the amount of oxygenated hemoglobin available in the venous circulation of the brain. Oxygenated hemoglobin has a smaller magnetic susceptibility than deoxygenated hemoglobin. Neural activity causes replacement of deoxygenated hemoglobin by oxygenated hemoglobin, which has higher T2* due to its smaller magnetic susceptibility. As T2* increases, higher signal is measured on T2*-weighted gradient-echo images, yielding a positive signal of increased venous circulation.

Bolus tracking.

A method of tracking moving spins after tagging them (locally altering their magnetization). The moving spins are then imaged at some time after tagging to see where the bolus (the small tagged volume of spins) has moved in the imaging plane.

Boil off rate

. Rate of cryogen evaporation in superconducting magnets, usually measured in liters of liquid per hour. It increases during ramping of the magnet and with eddy currents induced in the cryoshields by pulsed field gradients. In calculating cryogen consumption additional transfer and filling losses have to be considered.

Boltzmann distribution

. If a system of particles which are able to exchange energy in collisions is in thermal equilibrium, then the relative number (population) of particles, N1 and N2, in two particular energy levels with corresponding energies, E1 and E2, is given by


1/N2 = exp [–(E1 – E2)/kT ]

where k is Boltzmann’s constant and T is absolute temperature. For example, in

MR of protons at room temperature in a magnetic field of 0.25 tesla, the difference in relative numbers of spins aligned with the magnetic field and against the field is about one part in a million; the small excess of nuclei in the lower energy state is the basis of the net magnetization and the resonance phenomenon.



See Cerebral blood flow.


See Cerebral blood volume.

Cardiac gating

. See Gating and Synchronization, cardiac.

Cardiac phase.

A particular point in the cardiac cycle.

Carr-Purcell (CP) sequence

. Sequence of a 90° RF pulse followed by repeated 180° RF pulses to produce a train of spin echoes; is useful for measuring T2.

Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) sequence

. Modification of Carr-Purcell RF pulse sequence with 90° phase shift in the rotating frame of reference between the 90° pulse and the subsequent 180° pulses in order to reduce accumulating effects of imperfections in the 180° pulses. Suppression of effects of pulse error accumulation can alternatively be achieved by switching phases of the 180° pulses by 180°.

Cerebral blood flow (CBF).

The flow of capillary blood through the cortex, measured in units of flow (milliliters per minute) per unit mass of cortex.

Cerebral blood volume (CBV).

The volume of blood in a given volume of cerebral cortex, measured in units of volume.

Chemical shift (


. The change in the Larmor frequency of a given nucleus when bound in different sites in a molecule, due to the magnetic shielding effects of the electron orbitals. Chemical shifts make possible the differentiation of different molecular compounds and different sites within the molecules in high-resolution MR spectra. The amount of the shift is proportional to magnetic field strength and is usually specified in parts per million (ppm) of the resonance frequency relative to a standard. The actual frequency measured for a given spectral line may depend on environmental factors such as effects on the local magnetic field strength due to variations of magnetic susceptibility.

Chemical shift artifact

. See Chemical shift spatial offset.

Chemical shift imaging

. A magnetic resonance imaging technique that provides mapping of the regional distribution of intensity (images) of a specific range of chemical shifts, corresponding to individual spectral lines or groups of lines. The chemical shift can be treated as an additional dimension to be reconstructed. For example, all spatial dimensions can be encoded with phase encoding prior to signal acquisition and the signal then acquired in the absence of magnetic field gradients; recovery of spatial and chemical shift dimension can be achieved by appropriate Fourier transformation of the resulting data set.

Chemical shift reference

. A compound with respect to whose frequency the chemical shifts of other compounds can be compared. The standard can either be internal or external to the sample. Because of the need for possible corrections due to differential magnetic susceptibility between an external standard and the sample being measured, the use of an internal standard is generally preferred.

Chemical shift spatial offset

. Image artifact of apparent spatial offset of regions with different chemical shifts along the direction of the frequency encoding gradient; a similar effect may be found in the slice selection direction.

Cine acquisition.

The collection of images (usually at the same spatial location) covering one full period of motion or change, but which may be acquired over several periods to obtain complete coverage.


. See Contrast-to-noise ratio.

Circularly polarized coil

. A coil designed to excite or detect spins using two orthogonal transmit and/or receive channels. As a transmitter coil, there is a factor of 2 reduction in power required. It theoretically yields a x2 improvement in SNR over a linearly polarized coil as a receiving coil.


. See Contrast-to-noise ratio.


. Maintenance of a constant phase relationship between rotating or oscillating waves or objects. Loss of phase coherence of the spins results in a decrease in the transverse magnetization and hence a decrease in the MR signal. In the quantum mechanical description of magnetic resonance, coherence refers to a transition between different states of the spin system (see multiple quantum coherence).


. A state of a spin sample in which all spins in a voxel are in-phase.


. Single or multiple loops of wire (or other electrical conductor, such as tubing, etc.) designed either to produce a magnetic field from current flowing through the wire, or to detect a changing magnetic field by voltage induced in the wire.

Coil loading

. In MR imaging, the interaction of the patient with the RF coil, which causes shifts of the resonance frequency and damping of the coil’s resonance and hence reduction of the quality factor because of magnetic induction and dielectric losses in the patient.

Complex conjugate

. An operation on a complex number which negates the sign of the imaginary component of a complex vector. The two vectors then form a complex-conjugate pair.

Composite excitation.

Excitation of tissue created by a series of pulses rather than by a single radiofrequency pulse. The purpose of composite excitation is usually for the sum of these to produce net excitation of a target tissue, but for phase variations during the intervals between pulses to cause destructive interference, and therefore cause little or no excitation, of undesired tissue. Applications include selective excitation of water, or of tissues not subject to magnetization transfer.

Continuous wave NMR (CW)

. A technique for studying NMR by continuously applying RF radiation to the sample and slowly sweeping either the RF frequency or the magnetic field through the resonance values; now largely superceded by pulse MR techniques.


. In conventional radiography, contrast is defined as the difference of the signal intensities divided by the average signal intensity in two adjacent regions. In a general sense, we can consider image contrast, where the strength of the image intensity in adjacent regions of the image is compared, or object contrast, where the relative values of a parameter affecting the image (such as spin density or relaxation time) in corresponding adjacent regions of the object are compared. Relating image contrast to object contrast is more difficult in MR imaging than in conventional radiography, as there are more object parameters affecting the image and their relative contributions are very dependent on the particular imaging technique used. As in other kinds of imaging, image contrast in MRI will also depend on region size, as reflected through the modulation transfer function (MTF) characteristics. The contrast between an object (e.g., lesion) and the background will also depend on the particular choice of designated background (e.g., fat, muscle, etc.).

Contrast agent

. Substance administered to subject being imaged to alter selectively the image intensity of a particular anatomical or functional region, typically by altering the relaxation times, including T1, T2, and T2*.

Contrast-to-noise ratio

. Ratio of the absolute difference in intensities between two regions to the level of fluctuations in intensity due to noise.

Convolution differencing

. A method of suppressing broad underlying spectral lines in order to emphasize narrower spectral lines. Strong smoothing of the spectrum (e.g., by severe negative exponential weighting of the time data) will suppress the narrow lines but minimally affect very broad ones; subtracting such a smoothed spectrum from the original will largely remove the contributions from the broad lines. This provides a means of baseline correction.

Coronal plane.

The plane defined by the head-to-foot and left-to-right directions in the human body. A stack of images acquired in the coronal plane separates images by their anterior-to-posterior locations. See also Orientation.

Correlation time

. The characteristic time between significant fluctuations in the local magnetic field experienced by a spin due to molecular motions. For values of the correlation time such that the magnetic field as a function of time has large Fourier components near the resonance frequency, the T1 relaxation time will be shortened.

Coupled array coils.

Array coils, the signals from whose elements are electrically combined prior to processing.


. See Spin-spin coupling.

Coupling constant

. Spectral lines are split by spin-spin coupling into multiplets whose frequencies are separated by an amount depending on the coupling constant, J. The magnitude of J is independent of the strength of the applied magnetic field and is given in units of frequency, Hz.


. See Carr-Purcell.


. See Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill.


. RF coil pair arranged with their magnetic fields at right angles to each other in such a way as to minimize their mutual magnetic interaction.


. Very low temperature liquified gas (helium or nitrogen) used to maintain superconducting magnets in a superconducting state.


. See Superconducting magnet.


. By cooling a metal cylinder surrounding the He-vessel in a superconducting magnet, reduced cryogen boil-off can be achieved.


. An apparatus for maintaining a constant low temperature (as by means of liquid helium). Requires vacuum chambers to help with thermal isolation.


. See Chemical shift imaging.


. See Continuous wave.



. See Digital to analog converter.

Data system

. See Computer.


. See Decibel.


. The rate of change of the magnetic field (induction) with time. Because changing magnetic fields can induce electrical currents, this is one area of potential concern for safety limits.

DC artifact

. A bright point created in the image caused by a constant offset in signal intensity of all raw data points.

Decibel (dB)

. A measure of relative power defined as 20 log10 of the relative amplitude of voltage in an electrical circuit or 10 log10 of the relative power, e.g., a factor of 10 change in voltage corresponds to 20 dB and a factor of 100 corresponds to 40 dB.


. 1) specific irradiation designed to remove the multiplet structure in a particular resonance due to spin-spin coupling with other nuclei; 2) a means of preventing the interaction by mutual inductive coupling of two (or more) resonant RF coils, e.g., by detuning coils not in use at a particular point in time. Decoupling can take the form of active decoupling where an externally controlled switching circuit is used to detune the non-selected coils or passive decoupling where RF energy from the transmitter pulse is used to switch diodes to detune the appropriate coil.


x, Δy, Δz

. The pixel size (not necessarily equal to the resolution) along the x, y, or z axis.


Another term for detector, by analogy to broadcast radio receivers.


The loss of magnetization in the transverse plane, typically due to the fact that different magnetic dipoles of different nuclei are precessing about the main magnetic field, Bo, at slightly different precessional frequencies and therefore lose phase coherence.

Dephasing gradient

. Magnetic field gradient pulse used to create spatial variation of phase of transverse magnetization. For example, it may be applied prior to signal detection in the presence of a magnetic field gradient with opposite polarity (or of the same polarity if separated by a refocusing RF pulse) so that the resulting gradient echo signal will represent a more complete sampling of the Fourier transform of the desired image. See also spoiler gradient pulse.

Depth pulses

. Use of multiple RF pulses with an inhomogeneous RF field to enable acquiring data from only selected regions within the field. Provides a “one-dimensional” localization along isocontours of the B1 field.


. Portion of the receiver that demodulates the RF MR signal and converts it to a lower frequency signal. Most detectors now used are phase sensitive (e.g., quadrature demodulator/detector), and will also give phase information about the RF signal.


. A substance that will slightly decrease a magnetic field when placed within it (its magnetization is oppositely directed to the magnetic field, i.e., with a small negative magnetic susceptibility).


. The process by which molecules or other particles intermingle and migrate due to their random thermal motion. NMR provides a sensitive technique for measuring diffusion of some substances.

Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI).

Imaging techniques designed to weight the measured MRI signal by the amount of diffusion (random thermal motion) of water molecules in the selected voxels.

Digital to analog converter (DAC)

. Part of the interface that converts digital numbers from the computer into analog (ordinary) voltages or currents.


. Process of conversion of continuous (analog) signals, such as the detected MR signal (voltage), into numbers. This is carried out with an analog to digital converter. There are two kinds of discretization involved: the voltage is only measured (sampled) at particular discrete times, and only voltages within a particular range and separated by a particular minimum amount can be distinguished. Voltages beyond this range are said to exceed the dynamic range of the digitizer.

Digitization noise

. Noise introduced into digitized signals by the finite voltage resolution of the digitizer. Also called quantization noise.


. See Analog to digital converter.


. See Magnetic dipole.

Dipole-dipole interaction

. Interaction between a spin and its neighbors due to their magnetic dipole moments. This is an important mechanism contributing to relaxation rates. In solids and viscous liquids this can result in broadening of the spectral lines.

Dipole field

. The field pattern produced by a closely spaced positive and negative electric charge or a north and south magnetic pole. At distances large compared to the dipole length, the field falls off as the third power of the distance away from the charges or poles producing it.


See Diffusion-weighted imaging.

Dynamic range

. Range of signal intensities that may need to be distinguished in an image or spectrum or that can be distinguished by the electronic components. If the signal dynamic range is too great, the need to keep the highest intensities from overloading the digitizer may result in the weaker features being lost in the digitization noise. This can be dealt with by using an analog to digital converter with a larger range of sensitivity or by using techniques to reduce the dynamic range, e.g., suppressing the signal from water in order to detect the signal from less abundant compounds.



. See Spin echo.

Echo offset

. Adjustment of RF spin echo and gradient echo to be noncoincident in time, so as to create phase differences between the signals from different spectral lines (e.g., from fat and water). The magnitude of the resulting phase difference between two lines will be equal to the product of the difference in frequency of the lines and the difference in the echo times (TD).

Echo planar imaging (EPI)

. A single-shot gradient echo or spin echo imaging technique that collects a complete 2D image data set with Cartesian k-space coverage from a single excitation. For example, the FID is observed while periodically switching the y-magnetic field gradient in the presence of a static x-magnetic field gradient. The Fourier transform of the resulting spin echo train can be used to produce an image of the excited plane.

Echo spacing

. The time gap between successive echo peaks in a multiple echo imaging pulse sequence. See Multiple echo imaging.

Echo time

. See TE.

Echo train length (ETL)

. The number of echoes combined into a single image or image set in multiple echo imaging sequences or echo-train techniques such as rapid acquisition with relaxation enhancement (RARE), fast-spin echo (FSE), and turbo spin-echo (TSE). In RARE imaging, the ETL typically equals the acceleration factor. See Multiple echo imaging.

Eddy current compensation

. Means of reducing the influence of eddy currents on pulsed gradient fields by employing an electrical preemphasis in the gradient amplifiers. Usually multiple time constants have to be used to correct for eddy current effects in various structures of the MR system such as the cryoshields and RF-shields.

Eddy currents

. Electric currents induced in a conductor by a changing magnetic field or by motion of the conductor through a magnetic field. One of the sources of concern about potential hazard to subjects in very high magnetic fields or rapidly varying gradient or main magnetic fields. Can be a practical problem in the


of superconducting magnets. Common means to reduce the influence of eddy currents on gradient fields are eddy current compensation and shielded gradient coils (active or passive).

Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR)

. See Electron spin resonance.

Electron spin resonance (ESR)

. Magnetic resonance phenomenon involving unpaired electrons, e.g., in free radicals. The Larmor frequencies are much higher than corresponding NMR frequencies in the same static magnetic field.

Energy level

. In a magnetic field, each spin can exist in one of a number of distinct states having different energies; this number is determined by the spin quantum number.


See Echo planar imaging.


In functional MRI, a portion of fMRI signal measurement during which the stimulus presentation or response task is similar or unchanged.


See Electron spin resonance.


. See Electron spin resonance.

Ernst angle

. The RF excitation angle cos θE at which the signal is a maximum for a short-TR steady-state incoherent sequence. The Ernst angle is found from the relation cos θE = exp (–TR/T1).


. See Echo train length.

Even echo rephasing

. A rephasing which occurs when constant velocity spins return to the same starting phase they had directly after the initial exciting RF pulse, as a result of the application of an even number of gradient pulses. This may also result from the application of multiple gradient echo pulses following the RF pulse.


. Putting energy into the spin system; if a net transverse magnetization is produced, an MR signal can be observed.

Exponential weighting

. In spectroscopy, multiplication of the time-dependent signal data by an exponential function, exp(t/TC), where t is time and TC is a parameter called the time constant. The time constant can be chosen to either improve the signal-to-noise ratio (with a negative TC) or decrease the effective spectral line width (with a positive TC) in the resulting spectrum. The use of a negative TC to improve SNR is equivalent to line broadening by convolving the spectrum with a Lorentzian function of corresponding reciprocal width.



. See Frequency.

Faraday shield

. Electrical conductor interposed between transmitter and/or receiver coil and patient to block out electric fields.

Fast Fourier transform (FFT)

. An efficient computational method of performing a Fourier transform.

Fat Suppression.

MRI pulse sequence techniques in which the signal from hydrogen-containing lipids (mostly CH2) is reduced compared to the signal from water-containing tissues.


. A substance, such as iron, that has a large positive magnetic susceptibility.


. See Fast Fourier transform.


. See Free induction decay.

Field echo

. See Gradient echo.

Field gradient

. See Magnetic field gradient.

Field lock

. A feedback control used to maintain the static magnetic field at a constant strength, usually by monitoring the resonance frequency of a reference sample or line in the spectrum.

Field of view (FOV).

The rectangular region superimposed over the human body over which MRI data are acquired. Its dimensions are specified in length in each in-plane direction and are controlled by the application of frequency-encode and phase-encode gradients.

Filling factor

. A measure of the geometrical relationship of the RF coil and the object being studied. It affects the efficiency of exciting the object and detecting MR signals, thereby affecting the signal-to-noise ratio and, ultimately, image quality. Achieving a high filling factor requires fitting the coil closely to the object, thus potentially decreasing patient comfort.


. Filtering is any process which alters the relative frequency content. This can be done with an analog (conventional electrical) filter, e.g., to remove higher frequency components so as to avoid aliasing in digitizing. Filtering can be carried out numerically on the digitized data.

Filtered back projection

. Mathematical technique used in projection-reconstruction imaging to create images from a set of multiple projection profiles. The projection profiles are back projected to produce a two (or three) dimensional image. The projection profiles are processed by convolving them with a suitable mathematical function (filtered) prior to back projecting them, in order to improve the image. Widely used in conventional computed tomography (CT).

Flip angle

. Amount of rotation of the macroscopic magnetization vector produced by an RF pulse, with respect to the direction of the static magnetic field.

Flow compensation

. Means of reducing flow effects, e.g., gradient moment nulling.

Flow effects

. Motion of material being imaged, particularly flowing blood, can result in many possible effects in the images, including increase in the signal (“flow-related enhancement“), decrease in the signal or displacement of the signal (image misregistration). These effects can be understood as being caused by time-of-flight effects (washout or washin due to motion of nuclei between two consecutive spatially selective RF excitations, repeated in times on the order of or shorter than the relaxation times of blood) or phase shifts that can be acquired by excited spins moving along magnetic field gradients. The

inconsistency of the signal resulting from pulsatile flow can lead to

artifacts in the image; these can be reduced by synchronization of the imaging sequence with the heart cycle (“cardiac gating“), suppression of the blood signal with saturation pulses, or reduction of phase shifts with gradient moment nulling. The flow effects can also be exploited for MR angiography or flow measurements.

Flow-related enhancement

. The increase in intensity that may be seen for flowing blood or other liquids with some MR imaging techniques, due to the washout of saturated spins from the imaging region.

Flow void

. The occurrence of low signal in regions of flow. For a spin echo sequence, this is caused in part by a lack of refocussing of blood which is excited by the 90° pulse but not by the 180° pulse. For a gradient echo sequence, this is caused by the dephasing of blood signal.


See Functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Fourier transform (FT)

. A mathematical procedure to separate out the frequency components of a signal from its amplitudes as a function of time, or vice versa. The Fourier transform is used to generate the spectrum from the FID or spin echo in pulse MR techniques and is essential to most MR imaging techniques. The Fourier transform can be generalized to multiple dimensions, e.g., to relate an image to its corresponding k-space representation, or to include chemical shift information in some chemical shift imaging techniques.

Fourier transform imaging

. MR imaging techniques in which at least one dimension is phase-encoded by applying variable gradient pulses along that dimension before “reading out” the MR signal with a magnetic field gradient perpendicular to the variable gradient. The Fourier transform is then used to reconstruct an image from the set of encoded MR signals. An imaging technique of this type is spin warp imaging.


. See Field of view.

Free induction decay (FID)

. If transverse magnetization of the spins is produced, e.g., by a 90° pulse, a transient MR signal will result that will decay toward zero with a characteristic time constant T2 (or T2*); this decaying signal is the FID. In practice, the first part of the FID is not observable due to residual effects of the powerful exciting RF pulse on the electronics of the receiver, the receiver dead time.

Frequency (f)

. The number of repetitions of a periodic process per unit time. The old unit, cycles per second (cps), has been replaced by the SI unit, hertz, abbreviated Hz. It is related to angular frequency, ω, by f = ω/2π.

Frequency encoding

. Encoding the distribution of sources of MR signals along a direction by detecting the signal in the presence of a magnetic field gradient along that direction so that there is a corresponding gradient of resonance frequencies along that direction. In the absence of other position encoding, the Fourier transform of the resulting signal is a one-dimensional projection profile of the object.

Frequency offset

. The difference between given signal frequency and a reference frequency.

Frequency selective RF pulse

. An RF pulse containing energy only within a specified frequency range. Usually used for slice excitation or for selective saturation pulses.

Fringe field

. See Magnetic fringe field.


. See Fourier transform.

Full-width at half-maximum (FWHM)

. A commonly used measure of the width at half the maximum value of peaked functions such as spectral lines or slice profiles. For a spectral line, this will be proportional to 1/T2.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The use of MRI to study function in addition to anatomy. In the brain, fMRI measures changes in cerebral blood flow and cerebral blood oxygenation as correlates of neuronal activity (See, for example, Blood oxygen level dependent effect). fMRI is also used to study function of the heart and other organs.


. See Full-width at half-maximum.



. See Gauss.


x, Gy, Gz

. Conventional symbols for magnetic field gradient. Used with subscripts to denote spatial direction component of gradient, i.e., direction along which the field changes.


. Lanthanide element that is paramagnetic in its trivalent state. It has been used as the active component of most contrast agents in MR imaging because of its effect of strongly decreasing the T1 relaxation times of the tissues to which it has access. Although toxic by itself, it can be given safely in a chelated form such as Gd-DTPA, which still retains much of its strong effect on relaxation times.


. Synchronization of imaging with a phase of the cardiac or respiratory cycles. A variety of means for detecting these cycles can be used, such as the ECG, peripheral pulse, chest motion, etc. The synchronization can be prospective or retrospective.

Gauss (G)

. A unit of magnetic flux density in the older (CGS) system. The Earth’s magnetic field is approximately one half gauss to one gauss, de-pending on location. The currently preferred (SI) unit is the tesla (T) (1 T = 10,000 G).

Gaussian line shape

. A line shape characterized by a bell-shaped form; proportional to exp (–(f – f0)2/Δf2) where Δf is a measure of the line width.

Gaussian noise

. Noise distributed in a normal (Gaussian) pattern. In such a distribution, approximately 65% of all points fall within one standard deviation (s) of the mean.

Gibbs phenomenon

. Artifactual ripples that occur near a discontinuity when reconstructing a mathematical function from only a finite portion of its Fourier transform. In MR imaging, it can be seen as linear artifacts parallel to sharp edges in the object, particularly with the use of zero filling. See also Truncation artifact.

Gigahertz (GHz)

. Unit of frequency; equal to one thousand MHz.

Golay coil

. Term commonly used for a particular kind of gradient coil, commonly used to create magnetic field gradients perpendicular to the main magnetic field.


. The amount and direction of the rate of change in space of some quantity, such as magnetic field strength. Also commonly used to refer to magnetic field gradient.

Gradient and spin-echo imaging (GRASE).

A hybrid MR pulse sequence in which both gradient-echo and spin-echo techniques are combined to acquire multiple lines in k-space during measurement following a single spin-echo excitation.

Gradient coils

. Current carrying coils designed to produce a desired magnetic field gradient (so that the magnetic field will be stronger in some locations than others). Proper design of the size and configuration of the coils is necessary to produce a controlled and uniform gradient.


. A signal echo produced by reversing the direction of a magnetic field gradient or by applying balanced pulses of magnetic field gradient before and after a refocusing RF pulse so as to cancel out the position-dependent phase shifts that have accumulated due to the gradient. In the latter case, the gradient echo is generally adjusted to be coincident with the RF spin echo. When the RF and gradient echoes are not coincident, the time of the gradient echo is denoted TE and the difference in time between the echoes is denoted TD, while TER refers to the time of the RF spin echo.

Gradient-echo pulse sequence

. A pulse sequence that relies on gradient reversal to rephrase the transverse magnetization. Gradient-echo pulse sequences permit small flip-angle excitations, which preserve most of the longitudinal magnetization and therefore reduce or eliminate the time required for recovery of longitudinal magnetization before repeating the pulse sequence. Gradient echo pulse sequences have gained common use in 2DFT (planar) and 3DFT (volume) imaging, flow imaging, magnetic susceptibility imaging, and BOLD imaging.

Gradient magnetic field

. See Magnetic field gradient.

Gradient moment nulling

. Adjustment to zero at the time TE of the net moments of the amplitude of the waveform of the magnetic field gradients with time (e.g., zeroth moment is the area under the curve, first moment is the “center of gravity,” etc). The aim is to minimize the phase shifts acquired by the transverse magnetization of excited nuclei moving along the gradients (including the effect of refocusing RF pulses), particularly for the reduction of image artifacts due to motion.

Gradient pulse

. Briefly applied magnetic field gradient.

Gradient recalled echo

. See Gradient echo.

Gyromagnetic ratio (


. The ratio of the magnetic moment to the angular momentum of a particle. This is a constant for a given nucleus.




. Conventional symbol historically used for the constant magnetic field in an MR system; it is physically more correct to use Bo. A magnet provides a field strength, H; however, at a point in an object, the spins

experience the

magnetic induction, B. See section on “Basic Quantities in Electricity and Magnetism” in the back of the Glossary for further discussion.



. Conventional symbol historically used for the radiofrequency magnetic field in an MR system; it is physically more correct to use B1. It is useful to consider it as composed of two oppositely rotating vectors. At the Larmor frequency, the vector rotating in the same direction as the precessing spins will interact strongly with the spins. See section on “Basic Quantities in Electricity and Magnetism” in the back of the Glossary for further discussion.

Hahn echo

. Production of spin echo by repeated RF pulses. First observed using equal (90°) RF pulses, now commonly used to describe refocusing of transverse magnetization by a 180° RF pulse.

Half Fourier

. See Partial Fourier.


. Electrical and mechanical components of the spectrometer or computer.

Helmholtz coil.

Pair of current carrying coils used to create uniform magnetic field in the center of the space between them. For circular coils, their separation equals their radius.

Hemodynamic response. Changes in blood flow, blood volume, and blood oxygenation as a result of local neural activity.

Hertz (Hz)

. The standard (SI) unit of frequency; equal to the old unit cycles per second.


. Uniformity. In MR, the homogeneity of the static magnetic field is an important criterion of the quality of the magnet. Homogeneity requirements for MR imaging are generally lower than the homogeneity requirements for NMR spectroscopy, but for most imaging techniques must be maintained over a large region.


. Use of a magnetic field gradient to effectively eliminate residual transverse magnetization by producing a strong position dependence of phase within a resolution element. Also called Spoiler pulse.

Hybrid magnet

. Magnet system employing both current-carrying coils and permanently magnetized material to generate the magnetic field.


. See Hertz.



. See Spin quantum number.

Isotropic Imaging.

Imaging in which voxel dimensions are equal in x, y, and z directions.

Image acquisition time

. Time required to carry out an MR imaging procedure comprising only the data acquisition time. The total image acquisition time will be equal to the product of the repetition time, TR, the number of signals averaged, NSA, and the number of different signals (encoded for position) to be acquired for use in image reconstruction. The additional image reconstruction time will also be important to

determine how quickly the image can be viewed. In comparing

sequential plane imaging and volume imaging techniques, the equivalent image acquisition time per slice must be considered as well as the actual image acquisition time.

Imaginary signal

. Out-of-phase component of the signal from a quadrature detector.

Impedance matching

. Adjusting the electrical impedances of two circuits that are to be joined at an interface so that they are equal, e.g., with a matching network.

Incoherent spins

. A state of a set of spins in which the ensemble of spins in a voxel are uniformly distributed with phases between 0 and 2p reducing the transverse magnetization in a voxel to essentially zero.


. Measure of the magnetic coupling between two current-carrying loops (mutual) reflecting their spatial relationship or of a loop (such as a coil) with itself (self). One of the principal determinants of the resonance frequency of an RF circuit.

Induction (B).

See Magnetic induction.


. Degree of lack of homogeneity, for example the fractional deviation of the local magnetic field from the average value of the field.

In-phase image

. An image in which the signals from two spectral components (such as fat and water) add constructively in a voxel.

Interleaved image acquisition

. The joint collection of data for two or more separate images such that a subset of k-space samples for the second image is acquired immediately after that for the first image. This method avoids misregistration between the two images and allows for accurate subtraction of the two images.

Interleaved k-space coverage

. The sequential collection of raw data from multiple excitations such that each excitation samples multiple lines or curvilinear paths in k-space.

Interpulse times (t)

. Times between successive RF pulses used in pulse sequences. Particularly important are the inversion time (TI) in inversion recovery, and the time between 90° pulse and the subsequent 180° pulse to produce a spin echo, which will be approximately one half the spin echo time (TE). The time between repetitions of pulse sequences is the repetition time (TR).

Inverse Fourier transform

. Form of the Fourier transform that reverses the process, e.g., if the Fourier transform is used to analyze a function of time into its equivalent frequency components, the inverse Fourier transform will synthesize that function of time from these frequency components.


. A nonequilibrium state in which the macroscopic magnetization vector is oriented opposite to the magnetic field; usually produced by adiabatic fast passage or 180° RF pulses.

Inversion-recovery (IR)

. Pulsed MR imaging sequence wherein the nuclear magnetization is inverted at a time on the order of T1 before the regular imaging pulse-gradient sequences. The resulting partial relaxation of the spins in the different structures being imaged can be used to produce an image that

depends strongly on T1. This may bring out differences in the appearance of structures with different T1 relaxation times. Note that this does

not directly produce an image of T1. T1 in a given region can be calculated from the change in the NMR signal from the region due to the inversion pulse compared to the signal with no inversion pulse or an inversion pulse with a different inversion time (TI).

Inversion-recovery-spin-echo (IRSE)

. Form of inversion-recovery imaging in which the signal is detected as a spin echo. For TE short compared to the T2 relaxation time, there will be only a small effect of T2 differences on image intensities; for longer TEs, the effect of T2 may be significant.

Inversion time

. See TI.

Inversion transfer

. See Saturation transfer.


. See Inversion recovery.


. See Inversion-recovery-spin-echo.

Isocenter, magnetic.

The position in the magnet which is centered in the x, y, and z direction. At this location the static magnetic field is typically highest in uniformity.


. A microscopic group of spins which resonate at the same frequency. For example, a set of spins moving together in the direction of a magnetic field gradient yet jointly experiencing the same field at any given time.


. Atoms with varying numbers of neutrons but with the same number of protons. For example, 1H, 2H, and 3H are the three isotopes of hydrogen, otherwise known as proton, deuterium, and tritium. Various isotopes have different nuclear magnetic moments and, hence, have quite different resonant frequencies. Many isotopes have no magnetic moment and, hence, are therefore not observable by NMR.

Isotropic motion

. Motion which is uniform in all directions. This is generally used in reference to molecular diffusion or rotation which gives rise to relaxation of the spin system through dipole-dipole interactions.

Isotropic voxel

. A voxel with equal physical dimensions in x, y, and z directions.



. Commonly used to denote coupling constant, the frequency difference produced by spin-spin coupling.


. See Spin-spin coupling.


Changes in the relative phase of the component lines of a multiplet (see Spin-spin coupling) caused by differential phase accumulations, dependent on the particular acquisition parameters employed. For example, in multiple spin echo sequences the resulting modulation of the net intensity of the multiplet can affect the apparent T2s in a manner dependent on the choice of interpulse delays employed to observe the echo.



. Boltzmann’s constant; appears in Boltzmann distribution.

Keyhole imaging.

A form of dynamic imaging that increases temporal resolution without degrading spatial resolution by updating only a portion of k-space rapidly and frequently. The center of k-space which is updated more rapidly forms the “keyhole”. The remainder of k-space is updated less frequently to provide adequate spatial resolution.


. See Kilohertz.

Kilohertz (kHz)

. Unit of frequency; equal to one thousand hertz.


. Mathematical space in which the Fourier transform of the image is represented. The data acquired for MR image reconstruction generally correspond to samples of k-space, that is, they represent values of the Fourier transform of the image at a particular set of locations in k-space. See also Spatial frequency.

k-space filling.

The location and order of obtaining data in two-dimensional spatial frequency space (k-space), the Fourier transform of which comprises the MR image. For example, conventional MR pulse sequences such as spin-echo and gradient-echo imaging fill a single line of k-space with each data measurement. A different phase encoding step is used to fill out another parallel line of k-space. The full set of measurements completes a Cartesian grid of points in k-space. Other options for k-space filling include radial filling (back-projection imaging) or spiral filling (spiral imaging).

k-space trajectory

. The path traced in the spatial-frequency domain during data collection as determined by the applied gradients.


Larmor equation

. States that the frequency of precession of the nuclear magnetic moment is proportional to the magnetic field.


o = –γBo (radians per second)



o = –γBo/2π (hertz)

where w

o or fo is the frequency, γ is the gyromagnetic ratio, and Bo is the magnetic induction field. The negative sign indicates the direction of the rotation.

Larmor frequency (


o or fo). The frequency at which magnetic resonance can be excited; given by the Larmor equation. By varying the magnetic field across the body with a magnetic field gradient, the corresponding variation of the Larmor frequency can be used to encode position. For protons (hydrogen nuclei), the Larmor frequency is 42.58 MHz/tesla.


. By analogy to NMR in solids, the magnetic and thermal environment with which nuclei exchange energy in longitudinal relaxation.

Line imaging

. See Sequential line imaging.

Line scanning

. See Sequential line imaging.

Line shape

. Distribution of the relative strength of resonance as a function of frequency which establishes a particular spectral line. Common line shapes are Lorentzian and Gaussian.

Line, spectral

. See Spectral line.

Line spread function (LSF).

A hypothetical point-like or delta-function object in one dimension will generally have an extended (blurred) image resulting from the imaging process; this is the line spread function characterizing the imaging process. Knowledge of the LSF permits the prediction of how the object will be imaged in that one direction, assuming linearity of the imaging process. The Fourier transform of the line spread function is the modulation transfer function (MTF).

Line width

. Spread in frequency of a resonance line in a MR spectrum. A common measure of the line width is full-width at half-maximum (FWHM).


. 1) fidelity of response, e.g., of magnetic field gradients or RF system, to input. The output of a linear system is directly proportional to its input. 2) spatial uniformity of the magnetic field gradient over the imaging volume. Because of eddy current effects static and dynamic linearity have to be distinguished. Both together with the magnet homogeneity determine the geometrical correctness of the images.

Linearly polarized coil (LP coil)

. A coil designed to excite or detect spins using one RF transmit and/or receive channel. The magnetic field has predominately a single direction.


. System for reliquification of cryogenic gases; if closely matched with a superconducting magnet, zero net cryogen boil-off can be achieved.


. See Localized magnetic resonance.


. See Coil loading.

Localization techniques

. Means of selecting a restricted region from which the signal is received. These can include the use of surface coils, with or without magnetic field gradients. Generally used to produce a spectrum from the desired region.

Localized magnetic resonance (LMR)

. A particular technique for obtaining MR spectra, for example, of phosphorus, from a limited region by creating a sensitive volume with inhomogeneous applied gradient magnetic fields, which may be enhanced with the use of surface coils.


. See Field lock.

Longitudinal magnetization (M


. Component of the macroscopic magnetization vector along the static magnetic field. Following excitation by RF pulse, Mz will approach its equilibrium value Mo, with a characteristic time constant T1.

Longitudinal relaxation

. Return of longitudinal magnetization to its equilibrium value after excitation; requires exchange of energy between the nuclear spins and the lattice.

Longitudinal relaxation time

. See T1.

Lorentzian line

. Usual shape of the lines in an NMR spectrum, characterized by a central peak with long tails; proportional to 1/[(1/T2)2 + (f – fo)2], where f is frequency and fo is the frequency of the peak (i.e., central resonance frequency). A Lorentzian function is the Fourier transform of a decaying exponential.


See Line spread function.



. Conventional symbol for macroscopic magnetization vector.



. See Transverse magnetization.



. See Longitudinal magnetization.



. Equilibrium value of the magnetization; directed along the direction of the static magnetic field, Bo. Proportional to spin density, N.

Macroscopic magnetic moment.

See Macroscopic magnetization vector.

Macroscopic magnetization vector

. Net magnetic moment per unit volume (a vector quantity) of a sample in a given region, considered as the integrated effect of all the individual microscopic nuclear magnetic moments.

Magnet stability

. Temporal stability of the magnetic field. Factors to be considered are field decay of superconducting magnets in persistent mode, aging of permanent magnet material, temperature dependence of permanent magnet material, and temporal stability of magnet power supplies.

Magnetic dipole

. North and south magnetic poles separated by a finite distance. An electric current loop, including the effective current of a spinning nucleon or nucleus, can create an equivalent magnetic dipole.

Magnetic field (H)

. The region surrounding a magnet (or current carrying conductor) is endowed with certain properties. One is that a small magnet in such a region experiences a torque that tends to align it in a given direction. Magnetic field is a vector quantity; the direction of the field is defined as the direction that the north pole of the small magnet points when in equilibrium. A magnetic field produces a magnetizing force on a body within it. Although the dangers of large magnetic fields are largely hypothetical, this is an area of potential concern for safety limits.

Formally, the forces experienced by moving charged particles, current carrying wires, and small magnets in the vicinity of magnet are due to

magnetic induction (B), which includes the effect of magnetization, while the magnetic field (H) is defined so as not to include magnetization. However, both B and H are often loosely used to denote magnetic fields. See section on “Basic Quantities in Electricity and Magnetism” in the back of the Glossary for further discussion.

Magnetic field gradient

. A magnetic field which changes in strength in a certain given direction. Such fields are used in MR imaging with selective excitation to select a region for imaging and also to encode the location of MR signals received from the object being imaged. Measured (e.g.) in teslas per meter.

Magnetic forces

. Forces resulting from the interaction of magnetic fields. Pulsed magnetic field gradients can interact with the main magnetic field to produce acoustic noise through the gradient coil. Magnetic fields attract ferromagnetic objects with forces which can be lethal if one is hit by an unrestrained object in flight. One could also be trapped between the magnet and a large unrestrained ferromagnetic object or the object could damage the MR system. Access control and personnel awareness are the best prevention of such accidents. The attraction mechanism for ferromagnetic objects is that the magnetic field magnetizes the iron. This induced magnetization reacts with the gradient of the magnetic field to produce an attraction toward the strongest area of the field. The details of this interaction are very dependent on the shape and composition of the attracted object. There is a very rapid increase of force as one approaches a magnet. There is also a torque or twisting force on objects, e.g., a long cylinder (such as a pen or an intracranial aneurysm clip) will tend to align along the magnet’s field lines. The torque increases with field strength while the attraction increases with field gradient. Depending on the magnetic saturation of the object, attraction is roughly proportional to object mass. Motion of conducting objects in magnetic fields can induce eddy currents that can have the effect of opposing the motion.

Magnetic fringe field

. The region surrounding a magnet and exhibiting a magnetic field strength which is significantly higher than the earth’s magnetic field (typically 0.05-0.1 mT, depending on geographical location). Due to the physical properties of magnetic fields, the magnetic flux which penetrates the useful volume of the magnet will return through the surroundings of the magnet to form closed field lines. Depending on the magnet construction, the returning flux will penetrate large open spaces (unshielded magnets) or will be confined largely to iron yokes or through secondary coils (shielded magnets).

Magnetic induction (B)

. Also called magnetic flux density. The net magnetic effect from an externally applied magnetic field and the resulting magnetization. B is proportional to H (B = μH), with the SI unit being the tesla. See section on “Basic Quantities in Electricity and Magnetism” in the back of the Glossary for further discussion.

Magnetic moment.

A measure of the net magnetic properties of an object or particle. A nucleus with an intrinsic spin will have an associated magnetic dipole moment, so that it will interact with a magnetic field (as if it were a tiny bar magnet).

Magnetic resonance (MR)

. Resonance phenomenon resulting in the absorption and/or emission of electromagnetic energy by nuclei or electrons in a static magnetic field, after excitation by a suitable RF magnetic field. The peak resonance frequency is proportional to the magnetic field, and is given by the Larmor equation. Only unpaired electrons or nuclei with a non-zero spin exhibit magnetic resonance.

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)

. Angiography using MRI.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

. Use of magnetic resonance to create images of objects such as the body. Currently, this primarily involves imaging the distribution of mobile hydrogen nuclei (protons) in the body. The image brightness depends jointly on the spin density (N(H)) and the relaxation times (T1 and T2), with their relative importance depending on the particular imaging technique and choice of interpulse times. Image brightness is also affected by any motion such as blood flow, respiration, etc.

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)

. Use of magnetic resonance to study the MR spectrum of a sample or a tissue region. In addition to the effects of factors such as relaxation times that can affect the MR signal as seen in magnetic resonance imaging, effects such as J-modulation or the transfer of magnetization after selective excitation of particular spectral lines can affect the relative strengths of spectral lines. The frequencies of certain lines may also be affected by factors such as the local pH.

Magnetic shielding

. Means to confine the region of strong magnetic field surrounding a magnet; most commonly the use of material with high permeability (passive shielding) or by employing secondary counteracting coils outside of the primary coils (active shielding). The high permeability material can be employed in the form of a yoke immediately surrounding the magnet (self-shielding) or installed in the walls of a room as full or partial room-shielding. Unlike shielding ionizing radiation, for example, magnetic shielding can only be accomplished by forcing the unavoidable magnetic return flux through more confined areas or structures, not by absorbing it.

Magnetic susceptibility (


. Measure of the ability of a substance to become magnetized.


. (see also Macroscopic magnetization vector). The magnetic polarization of a material produced by a magnetic field (magnetic moment per unit volume).

Magnetization transfer

. The change in magnetization within a multicomponent spin system when one of the component peaks is selectively perturbed. This is observed as a change in relative signal intensities. One of the most common forms of perturbation in imaging is selective saturation. For example, this phenomenon can be exploited as part of an imaging sequence to produce image contrast based on differential amounts of magnetization transfer, magnetization transfer contrast (MTC).

Magnetization transfer contrast (MTC)

. Production of change in relative signal intensities by magnetization transfer. For example, saturation of broad spectral lines may produce decreases in intensity of lines not directly saturated, through exchange of magnetization between the corresponding states; more closely coupled states will show a greater resulting intensity change.

Magnetogyric ratio

. See Gyromagnetic ratio.

Magnitude calculation

. The result of taking the square root of the sum of the squares of the real and imaginary parts of an MR signal.


. See Impedance matching.

Matching network

. An arrangement of reactive elements (inductors and capacitors) used to transform an input impedance of a given value to an output impedance of a second value. Such circuits are used in interfacing high impedance RF coils to low impedance (usually 50 ohms) transmission lines that feed RF energy to the coil or send the MR signal to an MR preamplifier.

Matrix size

. The number of data points collected in one, two or all three directions. Normally used for the 2D in-plane sampling. The display matrix may be different from the acquisition matrix, although resolution is determined by the latter. (See also Nx, Ny, Nz.)

Maximum intensity projection (MIP)

. A projection image which is obtained from a 3D data set by selecting the maximum intensity along lines or rays that cut through the 3D image volume.

Maxwell coil

. A particular kind of gradient coil, commonly used to create magnetic field gradients along the direction of the main magnetic field.

Megahertz (MHz)

. Unit of frequency, equal to one million hertz.

Meiboom-Gill sequence

. See Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill sequence.


. See Megahertz.


. See Magnetic moment.

MPR (multiplanar reconstruction)

. The reformatting of a 3D data set into 2D slices of arbitrary thickness at any angle.


. See Magnetic resonance.

MR Signal

. See Raw Data.


. See Magnetic resonance angiography.


. See Magnetic resonance imaging.


. See Magnetic resonance spectroscopy.


. See Magnetization transfer contrast.

Multiple coil array

. A set of decoupled RF coils, usually in receive mode, arranged to cover the whole region of interest. It has both the spatial coverage of a large region-of-interest coil and the high SNR of a surface coil.

Multiple echo imaging

. Spin echo imaging or echo-train pulse sequence techniques such as rapid acquisition with relaxation enhancement (RARE) techniques (fast spin-echo (FSE) or turbo-spin echo (TSE)) in which more than one echo is acquired per excitation pulse. Carr-Purcell (CP) sequences and Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) sequences are examples of multiple-echo imaging techniques in which distinct images are constructed from signal echoes acquired at a different TE values, yielding different T2 weighting to each image set. Echo-train or RARE techniques speed image acquisition by applying a different phase-encoding to each echo, speeding image acquisition, but blending echoes with different T2 weightings into a single image set.

Multiple line-scan imaging (MLSI)

. Variations of sequential line imaging techniques that can be used if selective excitation methods that do not affect adjacent lines are employed. Adjacent lines are imaged while waiting for relaxation of the first line toward equilibrium, which may result in decreased image acquisition time. A different type of MLSI uses simultaneous excitation of two or more lines with different phase encoding followed by suitable decoding.

Multiple quantum coherence

. Excitation by an RF pulse can be considered as creating a transition (or “coherence”) between different energy levels. Formally, transitions are only allowed between states of the spin system differing in quantum number by one unit (“single-quantum coherence”), but multiple RF pulses

can act in cascade and produce multiple-quantum coherence.Only single quantum coherence produces a directly observable signal, however, requiring indirect observation of multiple-quantum frequencies.

Multiple sensitive point.

Sequential line imaging technique utilizing two orthogonal oscillating magnetic field gradients, an SFP pulse sequence, and signal averaging to isolate the MR spectrometer sensitivity to a desired line in the body.

Multiple slice imaging

. Variation of sequential plane imaging techniques that can be used with selective excitation techniques that do not affect adjacent slices. Adjacent slices are imaged while waiting for relaxation of the first slice toward equilibrium, resulting in decreased image acquisition time for the set of slices.

Multiple spin echo

. A pulse sequence leading to the production of multiple spin echoes after an initial excitation pulse. See Carr-Purcell (CP) sequences and Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) sequences, for example.


. A pattern of multiple resonances (spectral lines) observed when the initially single Larmor frequency of a given nucleus in a spin system is split by interactions with neighboring spins through the scalar or spin-spin interaction. The magnitude of this interaction is independent of the applied magnetic field and is referred to as J, the spin-spin coupling constant. The specific pattern produced depends on the number of coupled nuclei and their spin quantum numbers.

Multiply tuned coil

. RF coil designed to operate at more than one resonance frequency, so that MR of more than one kind of nucleus can be observed with the same coil.



. See Spin density.


. See NSA.


. See Nuclear magnetic resonance.

NMR imaging

. (See also Zeugmatography and magnetic resonance imaging). Creation of images of objects such as the body by use of the nuclear magnetic resonance phenomenon. The immediate practical application involves imaging the distribution of hydrogen nuclei (protons) in the body. The image brightness in a given region is usually dependent jointly on the spin density and the relaxation times, with their relative importance determined by the particular imaging technique employed. Image brightness is also affected by motion such as blood flow.

NMR signal.

Electromagnetic signal in the radiofrequency range produced by the precession of the transverse magnetization of the spins. The rotation of the transverse magnetization induces a voltage in a coil, which is amplified and demodulated by the receiver; the signal may refer only to this induced voltage.


. See Nuclear Overhauser effect.


. That component of the reconstructed image (or spectrum) due to random and unpredictable processes as opposed to the signal within the image itself which is due to predictable processes. Not to be confused with artifacts which are non-random errors in the image. It is commonly characterized by the standard deviation of signal intensity in the image of a uniform object (phantom) in the absence of artifacts. The measured noise may depend on the particular phantom used due to variable effects on the Q of the receiver coil.

Noise figure

. A measure of the noise performance of an amplifier or chain of amplifiers such as an MR receiver. In MR systems the preamplifier should have a very low noise figure to prevent significant degradation of the signal-to-noise ratio of the MR signal. Noise figure is a ratio in dBs, and is given by: 20 log [Vo/(ViG)] where Vi is the input thermal noise voltage, Vo is the amplifier output noise level and G is the voltage gain of the amplifier (when the input and output impedances of the amplifier are equal).


. Number of signals averaged together to determine each distinct position-encoded signal to be used in image reconstruction.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)

. The absorption or emission of electromagnetic energy by nuclei in a static magnetic field, after excitation by a suitable RF magnetic field. The peak resonance frequency is proportional to the magnetic field, and is given by the Larmor equation. Only nuclei with a non-zero spin exhibit NMR.

Nuclear Overhauser effect (NOE)

. A change in the steady state magnetization of a particular nucleus due to irradiation of a neighboring nucleus with which it is coupled by means of a spin-spin coupling interaction. This interaction must be the primary relaxation mechanism of these nuclei. Such an effect can occur during decoupling and must be taken into account for accurate intensity determinations during such procedures.

Nuclear spin

(see also Spin). An intrinsic property of certain nuclei that gives them an associated characteristic angular momentum and magnetic moment.

Nuclear spin quantum number (I)

. See Spin quantum number.


. Generic term for a nuclear constituent, a neutron or proton.


. A displacement of the axis of a spinning body away from the simple cone shaped figure which would be traced by the axis during precession. In the rotating frame of reference, the nutation caused by an RF pulse appears as a simple precession, although the motion is more complex in the stationary frame of reference.

Nx, Ny, Nz

. The number of sampled points in the x, y, or z direction, respectively.

Nyquist limit

. Frequency of a signal beyond which aliasing will occur in the sampling process. This frequency is equal to one half the sampling rate.


Off resonance

. A state occurring when the Larmor frequency of a spin isochromat is different from that of the exciting RF field.

On resonance

. A state occurring when the Larmor frequency of a spin isochromat is the same as that of the exciting RF field.

Opposed-phase image

. An image in which the signal from two spectral components (such as fat and water) are 180° out-of-phase and lead to destructive interference in a voxel.


. The three basic orthogonal slice orientations are: transverse (T), sagittal (S) and coronal (C). The basic anatomical directions are: right (R) to left (L), posterior (P) to anterior (A), and feet (F) to head (H), considered as positive directions. The location in the R/L and P/A directions can be specified relative to the axis of the magnet; the F/H location can be specified relative to a convenient patient structure.

A standard display orientation for images in the basic slice orientation is: 1) transverse: A to top of image and L to right, 2) coronal: H to top of image and L to right and 3) sagittal: H to top of image and A to left.

The orientation of single oblique slices can be specified by rotating a slice in one of the basic orientations toward one of the other two basic orthogonal planes about an axis defined by the intersection of the two planes. For example, a plane tipped from the transverse 30

° toward the sagittal would be denoted T ∅ S 30. Double oblique slices can be specified as the result of tipping a single oblique plane as above toward the remaining basic orientation plane about an axis defined by the intersection of the oblique plane and the remaining basic plane. For example, tipping the single oblique plane above 40° toward the coronal would be denoted (T ∅ S 30) ∅ C 40. In double oblique angulations, the first rotation is chosen about the vertical image axis and the second about the (new) horizontal axis. Angles are chosen to have magnitudes less than 90° (for single oblique slices less than 45°); the sign of the angle is taken to be positive when the rotation brings positive axes closer together. For a scan including a family of single oblique angulations in a fan, we keep the same primary slice order to denote all the images, choosing it so the average angle is in the range ±45°. Labelling the four sides of the image according to the direction relative to the center of the image helps clarify anatomical orientation: the basic orientation images will have four single letter labels, single oblique images will have two single and two double letter labels and double oblique images will have two double and two triple letter labels. The order of the letters in the label should reflect the relative closeness of the primary axes. The slice location can be specified by the location of the point at the center of the slice. In general, the actual displayed image may have a further, in-plane, rotation; this should be indicated either as an angle of rotation (positive, clockwise) or with a graphical icon, as discussed below.

An alternate way to specify the orientation of the image plane is with the direction cosines of the normal to the plane (the cosines of the angle between a line perpendicular to the image plane and the basic axes (A, L, H)). This may be convenient when specifying images to be acquired perpendicular to an axis between anatomical landmarks. The labelling of the locations of the sides of the image relative to the image center would be the same as above for specification of plane orientation by rotations relative to the basic orientation planes.

If available, some graphic aids can be helpful to show image orientations. 1) A graphic icon of the labelled primary axes (A, L, H) with relative lengths given by direction sines and orientation as if viewed from the normal to the image plane can help orient the viewer, both to identify image plane orientation and to indicate possible in-plane rotation. 2) In graphic prescription of obliques from other images, a sample original image with an overlaid line or set of lines indicating the intersection of the original and oblique image planes can help orient the viewer.


Pacemaker effect

. All implanted electronic devices are susceptible to the fields used in MR. The static magnetic field applies force to magnetic materials and both RF fields and pulsed gradients can induce voltages in circuits. The pacemaker’s susceptibility to static field and its critical role in life support have warranted special consideration. Transcutaneous control or adjustment of pacing rate is a feature of many units. Some achieve this control using switches activated by the external application of a magnet to open/close the switch. Others use rotation of an external magnet to turn internal controls. The fringe field around an MR magnet can activate such switches or controls. Such activations are considered to be a risk. Areas with fields higher than 0.5 mT (5 G) commonly have restricted access and/or are posted as being a risk to persons with pacemakers.

Paradoxical enhancement

. See flow-related enhancement.

Parallel imaging.

The use of multiple receiver coils to collect simultaneously different portions of the image in physical space, or different data points in k-space, which are then used to reconstruct collected images. Parallel imaging speeds data collection and therefore decreases total imaging time, with some loss in signal-to-noise ratios compared to conventional imaging and longer post-acquisition reconstruction times. Particular strategies in parallel imaging include vendor-specific methods such as sensitivity-encoding (SENSE, mSENSE), simultaneous acquisition of spatial harmonics (SMASH), generalized auto-calibrating partially parallel acquisition (GRAPPA), integrated parallel acquisition techniques (iPAT), and others. These parallel imaging techniques differ from one another, some requiring collection of a sensitivity map of each receiver coil for use in image reconstruction.


. A substance with a small but positive magnetic susceptibility (magnetizability). The addition of a small amount of paramagnetic substance may greatly reduce the relaxation times of water. Typical paramagnetic substances usually possess an unpaired electron and include atoms or ions of transition elements, rare earth elements, some metals, and some molecules including molecular oxygen and free radicals. Paramagnetic substances are considered promising for use as contrast agents in MR imaging.

Partial Fourier imaging

. Reconstruction of an image from an MR data set comprising an asymmetric sampling of k-space. For example, it can be used either to shorten image acquisition time, by reducing the number of phase encoding steps required, or to shorten the echo time, TE, by moving the echo off center in the acquisition window. In either case the signal-to-noise ratio is reduced and the resolution can be improved to correspond to the maximum available resolution in the data.

Partial saturation (PS)

. Excitation technique applying repeated RF pulses in times on the order of or shorter than T1. In MR imaging systems, although it results in decreased signal amplitude, there is the possibility of generating images with increased contrast between regions with different relaxation times. It does not directly produce images of T1. The change in MR signal from a region resulting from a change in the interpulse time, TR, can be used to calculate T1 for the region. Although partial saturation is also commonly referred to as saturation recovery, that term should properly be reserved for the particular case of partial saturation in which recovery after each excitation effectively takes place from true saturation.

Partial saturation spin echo (PSSE)

. Partial saturation in which the signal is detected as a spin echo. Even though a spin echo is used, there will not necessarily be a significant contribution of the T2 relaxation time to image contrast, unless the echo time, TE, is on the order of or longer than T2.

Partial volume effect

. The loss of contrast between two adjacent tissues in an image caused by insufficient resolution so that more than one tissue type occupies the same voxel (or pixel).

Passive shielding

. Magnetic shielding through the use of high permeability material (see also Magnetic shielding, Self-shielding and Room shielding).

Passive shimming

. Shimming by adjusting the position of suitable pieces of ferromagnetic metal within or around the main magnet of an MR system.


See Proton density.


. See Spectral line.

Perfusion-weighted imaging. Image acquisition techniques that highlight fluids moving through arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Permanent magnet.

A magnet whose magnetic field originates from permanently magnetized material.

Permeability (μ).

Tendency of a substance to concentrate magnetic field, μ = B/H.


. An artificial object of known dimensions and properties used to test aspects of an imaging machine.


. In a periodic function (such as rotational or sinusoidal motion), the position relative to a particular part of the cycle.

Phase correction

. (1) corrective processing of the spectrum so that spectral lines at different frequencies all have the absorption-mode phase. (2) in imaging, adjustment of the signal in different parts of the image to have a consistent phase.

Phase cycling

. Techniques of signal excitation in which the phases of the exciting or refocusing RF pulses are systematically varied and the resulting signals are then suitably combined in order to reduce or eliminate certain artifacts.

Phase encoding

. Encoding the distribution of sources of MR signals along a direction in space with different phases by applying a pulsed magnetic field gradient along that direction prior to detection of the signal. In general, it is necessary to acquire a set of signals with a suitable set of different phase-encoding gradient pulses in order to reconstruct the distribution of the sources along the encoded direction.

Phase encoding order

. The temporal order in which the phase encoding gradient pulses are applied. The order can be sequential, centric, reverse centric, random, etc.

Phase sensitive detector

. Detector that measures the phase of the signal relative to the phase of a reference oscillator. See Quadrature detector.

PIN diode

. A semiconductor device whose RF resistance varies in proportion to an applied DC bias current. PIN diodes are essential elements for rapid switching of RF coils between transmit and receive modes and for coil decoupling.


. Acronym for a picture element; the smallest discrete part of a digital image display. Note that the corresponding size of the pixel may be smaller than the actual spatial resolution.

Planar imaging

. Imaging technique in which the image of a plane is built up from signals received from the whole plane. See also Sequential plane imaging.

Point spread function (PSF)

. A hypothetical point object will generally have an extended (blurred) image resulting from the imaging process; this is the point spread function characterizing the imaging process. Considering any object as composed of an assembly of point objects, knowledge of the PSF permits the prediction of how the object will be imaged, assuming linearity of the imaging process.

Pole piece (or pole tip)

. High permeability material used to shape the uniformity of the useful volume of a magnet, especially a permanent magnet.


. The numbers of nuclei or electrons in different energy levels. At thermal equilibrium, the relative populations of the energy levels will be given by the Boltzmann distribution.


. A device that amplifies very low-level signals. A preamplifier is generally placed close to its signal source and has a very low noise figure as it is the principal determinant of electronic noise within the system. Preamplifiers used in MR systems usually have a low input impedance, and require a matching network to interface to the RF coil, although preamplifiers with high input impedance may be used with surface coils. Such devices typically use a field effect transistor (FET) as their input stage.


. Comparatively slow gyration of the axis of a spinning body so as to trace out a cone; caused by the application of a torque tending to change the direction of the rotation axis, and continuously directed at right angles to the plane of the torque. The magnetic moment of a nucleus with spin will experience such a torque when inclined at an angle to the magnetic field, resulting in precession at the Larmor frequency. Familiar examples are the effect of gravity on the motion of a spinning top, gyroscope, or the rotating earth.

Precessional frequency

. See Larmor frequency.


. Means of compensating for the non-ideal response of a system such as the magnetic field gradient system by modifying the input function.


. See Saturation.


. The portion of an MR spectrometer comprising the sample container and the RF coils, with some associated electronics. The RF coils may consist of separate receiver and transmitter coils in a crossed-coil configuration, or, alternatively, a single coil to perform both functions.

Progressive saturation

. See Saturation recovery.

Projection profile

. Spectrum of MR signal whose frequency components are broadened by a magnetic field gradient. In the simplest case (negligible line width, no relaxation effects, and no effects of prior gradients), it corresponds to a one-dimensional projection of the spin density along the direction of the gradient; in this form it is used in projection-reconstruction imaging.

Projection-reconstruction imaging

. MR imaging technique in which a set of projection profiles of the body is obtained by observing MR signals in the presence of a suitable corresponding set of magnetic field gradients. Images can then be reconstructed using techniques analogous to those used in conventional computed tomography (CT), such as filtered back projection. It can be used for volume imaging or, with plane selection techniques, for sequential plane imaging.

Prospective synchronization

. See Synchronization, prospective.

Proton density (PD). The quantity of hydrogen nuclei in each voxel or volume of tissue. Spin-echo imaging can generate a proton density-weighted image by using long TR and very short TE settings.


. See Partial saturation.


See Point spread function.


. See Partial saturation spin echo.

Pulse, 90

° (π/2 pulse). RF pulse designed to rotate the macroscopic magnetization vector 90° in space as referred to the rotating frame of reference, usually about an axis at right angles to the main magnetic field. If the spins are initially aligned with the magnetic field, this pulse will produce transverse magnetization and an FID.

Pulse, 180

° (π pulse). RF pulse designed to rotate the macroscopic magnetization vector 180° in space as referred to the rotating frame of reference, usually about an axis at right angles to the main magnetic field. If the spins are initially aligned with the magnetic field, this pulse will produce inversion.

Pulse, gradient.

See Gradient pulse.

Pulse, RF

. See RF pulse.

Pulse length (width)

. Time duration of a pulse. For an RF pulse near the Larmor frequency, the longer the pulse length, the greater the angle of rotation of the macroscopic magnetization vector will be (greater than 180° can bring it back toward its original orientation). For an RF pulse of a given shape as a function of time, the longer the pulse length, the narrower the equivalent range of frequencies in the pulse will be.

Pulse NMR

. NMR techniques that use RF pulses and Fourier transformation of the NMR signal; have largely replaced the older continuous wave techniques.

Pulse programmer

. Part of the spectrometer or interface that controls the timing, duration, phase, and amplitude of the pulses (RF or gradient).

Pulse sequences

. Set of RF (and/or gradient) magnetic field pulses and time spacings between these pulses; used in conjunction with magnetic field gradients and MR signal reception to produce MR images. See also Interpulse times. A recommended shorthand designation of interpulse times used to generate a particular image is to list the repetition time (TR), the echo time (TE) and, if using inversion-recovery, the inversion time, TI, with all times given in milliseconds. For example, 2500/30/1000 would indicate an inversion-recovery pulse sequence with TR of 2500 msec, TE of 30 msec, and TI of 1000 msec. If using multiple spin echoes, as in CPMG, the number of the spin echo used should be stated.

Pulsed gradients

. See Gradient pulse.



. See Quality factor.

Quadrature coil

. A coil that produces an RF field with circular polarization by providing RF feed points that are out of phase by 90°. When used as a transmitter coil a factor of two power reduction over a linear coil results; as a receiver an increase in SNR of up to a factor of 2 can be achieved.

Quadrature detector

. A phase sensitive detector or demodulator that detects the components of the signal in phase with a reference signal and 90° out of phase with the reference signal. This may be performed by either analog or digital means.

Quadrupole moment

. A measure of the non-spherical distribution of electrical charge possessed by nuclei with a nuclear spin number greater than 1/2. The resulting interaction with electric field gradients in the molecule can lead to a shortening of relaxation times and a broadening of spectral lines.

Quality factor (Q)

. Applies to any resonant circuit component; most often the coil Q determines the overall Q of the circuit. Inversely related to the fraction of the energy in an oscillating system lost in one oscillation cycle. Q is inversely related to the range of frequency over which the system will exhibit resonance. It affects the signal-to-noise ratio, because the detected signal increases proportionally to Q while the noise is proportional to the square root of Q. The Q of a coil will depend on the circumstances under which it is measured, e.g., whether is is “unloaded” (no patient) or “loaded” (patient).

Quantization noise

. See Digitization noise.


. Loss of superconductivity of the current-carrying coil that may occur unexpectedly in a superconducting magnet. As the magnet becomes resistive, heat will be released that can result in rapid evaporation of liquid helium in the cryostat. This may present a hazard if not properly planned for.



Longitudinal relaxation rate equal to reciprocal of relaxation time (R1 = 1/T1).


Longitudinal relaxation rate equal to reciprocal of relaxation time (R2 = 1/T2).


(See Region-of-interest)


. Dimensionless unit of angular measure; 360°=2π radians.

Radiofrequency (RF)

. Wave frequency intermediate between auditory and infrared. The RF used in MR studies is commonly in the megahertz (MHz) range. The RF used in ESR studies is commonly in the gigahertz (GHz) range. The principal effect of RF magnetic fields on the body is power deposition in the form of heating, mainly at the surface; this is a principal area of concern for safety limits.

Ramp time

. Time required for a change in the magnetic field strength, usually measured in tesla/min; depends on construction of the magnet and design of the magnet power supply.


. Changing the strength of the magnetic field of a magnet.

Random noise

. Noise whose amplitude follows some probability distribution and is uncorrelated.

Rapid-excitation MR imaging

. There are several approaches to speeding up the MRI data acquisition process by repeating the excitation by RF pulses in times short compared to T1, typically using small flip angles and gradient echo refocusing. When TR is also on the order of or shorter than T2, the repeated RF pulses will tend to refocus transverse magnetization remaining from prior excitations, setting up a condition of steady state free precession, and a dependence of signal strength (and image contrast) on both T1 and T2. This can be modified in various ways, particularly: 1) “spoil” the tendency to build up a steady state by reducing coherence between excitations, e.g., by variation of the phase or timing of consecutive RF pulses or of the strength of spoiler gradient pulses, thus increasing the relative dependence of signal strength on T1 or 2) acquire the signal when it is refocusing immediately prior to the next RF pulse, thus increasing the relative dependence of signal strength on T2.

Raw data

. The digital MR signal sampled and stored during data acquisition. Also referred to as k-space data.

Rayleigh noise

. The distribution associated with the magnitude of the noise amplitude following a Gaussian distribution. The mean value of this distribution is roughly 1.25 σ0, where σ0 is the standard deviation of the original Gaussian distribution.

Readout delay

. See TE.

Real signal

. In-phase component of signal detected with a quadrature detector.


. Portion of the MR apparatus that detects and amplifies RF signals picked up by the receiving coil. Includes a preamplifier, amplifier, and demodulator.

Receiver coil

. Coil of the RF receiver; “picks up” the MR signal.

Receiver dead time

. Time after exciting RF pulse during which FID is not detectable due to saturation of receiver electronics.

Reconstruction from projections imaging

. See Projection-reconstruction imaging.

Reference compound

. Standard compound used as a standard reference spectral line for defining chemical shifts for a given nucleus. As recommended by the ASTM, for 1H it is tetramethylsilane (TMS) and for 31P it is phosphoric acid, although for practical biological applications water and PCr have been used as secondary references for hydrogen and phosphorus spectroscopy, respectively. The reference compound can be in a capsule outside of the subject (external) or can be in the subject (internal); internal references are generally preferable where possible, as external references may be subject to different conditions.


. See Spin echo.


. System for actively cooling structures in a superconducting magnet. If only cryoshields are cooled (two-stage refrigerator), no liquid nitrogen will be needed and He-boil-off will be reduced. If additionally the superconducting coil support is actively cooled (three-stage refrigerator) the He-consumption can be essentially reduced to zero.

Region-of-interest (ROI).

A user-defined subset of pixels in a planar image.

Relaxation. The return of an excited system of spinning magnetic dipoles (spins) to its equilibrium state.

Relaxation rates

. Reciprocals of the relaxation times, T1 and T2 (R1 = 1/T1 and R2 = 1/T2). There is often a linear relation between the concentration of MR contrast agents and the resulting change in relaxation rate.

Relaxation times

. After excitation, the spins will tend to return to their equilibrium distribution, in which there is no transverse magnetization and the longitudinal magnetization is at its maximum value and oriented in the direction of the static magnetic field. It is observed that in the absence of applied RF magnetic field, the transverse magnetization decays toward zero with a characteristic time constant T2, and the longitudinal magnetization returns toward the equilibrium value Mo with a characteristic time constant T1.

Repetition time

. See TR.

Rephasing gradient

. Magnetic field gradient pulse applied to reverse the spatial variation of phase of transverse magnetization caused by a dephasing gradient. For example, in selective excitation, it is a magnetic field gradient applied for a brief period after a selective excitation pulse, in the opposite direction to the gradient used for the selective excitation. The result of the gradient reversal is a rephasing of the spins (which will have gotten out of phase with each other along the direction of the selection gradient), forming a gradient echo and improving the sensitivity of imaging after the selective excitation process.

Resistive magnet

. A magnet whose magnetic field originates from current flowing through an ordinary (nonsuperconducting) conductor.

Resolution element

. Size of smallest spatially resolved regions in image. It may be anisotropic, e.g., with an asymmetric acquisition matrix or slice thickness, and may be larger than the pixel or voxel.

Resolution, spatial

. See Spatial resolution.


. A large amplitude vibration in a mechanical or electrical system caused by a relatively small periodic stimulus with a frequency at or close to a natural frequency of the system; in MR apparatus, resonance can refer to the NMR itself or to the tuning of the RF circuitry.

Resonance frequency

. Frequency at which resonance phenomenon occurs; given by the Larmor equation for NMR; determined by inductance and capacitance for RF circuits.

Resonance offset (


. Either the phase gDBTR due to an applied field or field inhomogeneity (DB) and generated during the time between two RF pulses, or the phase change of the RF pulse from one pulse to the next.

Respiratory gating

. See gating.

Respiratory ordering of phase encoding

. Respiratory synchronization that acquires image data at regular times independent of the respiratory cycle, but chooses the sequence of phase encoding data acquisition so as to minimize the respiratory motion-induced artifacts in the resulting image. For example, choosing the sequence of phase encoding such that adjacent samples in the final full data set have minimal differences in respiratory phase will minimize the spacing of “ghost” artifacts in the final image.

Retrospective respiratory gating

. The resorting of data collected over several acquisitions to create an image where all phase encoding lines are acquired with the object at the same spatial location of the respiratory cycle.

Retrospective synchronization

. See Synchronization, retrospective.


. See Radiofrequency.

RF coil

. Coil used for transmitting RF pulses and/or receiving MR signals. Commonly used in birdcage coil, saddle coil, or solenoid coil configurations for MR imaging.

RF pulse.

Burst of RF magnetic field delivered to object by RF transmitter. For RF frequency near the Larmor frequency, it will result in rotation of the macroscopic magnetization vector in the rotating frame of reference (or a more complicated nutational motion in the stationary frame of reference). The amount of rotation will depend on the strength and duration of the RF pulse; commonly used examples are 90° (π/2) and 180° (π) pulses.

RF shielding

. Electrically conducting shielding designed to isolate an MR system from its environment at the resonant frequencies of interest.

RF spin echo

. Spin echo produced by an RF pulse.

RF spoiling

. The use of varying phase or timing of the RF pulses to prevent setting up a condition of steady state free precession, e.g., in rapid-excitation MR imaging.

Room shielding

. Magnetic shielding through the use of high permeability material in the walls (plus floor and ceiling) of the magnet room. Room shielding can be complete (e.g., six sides of a box), or partial if the fringe field is to be reduced only in certain areas (see also magnetic shielding).

Rotating frame of reference.

A frame of reference (with corresponding coordinate systems) that is rotating about the axis of the static magnetic field Bo (with respect to a stationary (“laboratory”) frame of reference) at a frequency equal to that of the applied RF magnetic field, B1. Although B1 is a rotating vector, it appears stationary in the rotating frame, leading to simpler mathematical formulations.

Rotating frame zeugmatography

. Technique of MR imaging that uses a gradient of the RF excitation field (to give a corresponding variation of the flip angle along the gradient as a means of encoding the spatial location of spins in the direction of the RF field gradient) in conjunction with a static magnetic field gradient (to give spatial encoding in an orthogonal direction). It can be considered to be a form of Fourier transform imaging.


Saddle coil

. RF coil configuration design commonly used when the static magnetic field is coaxial with the axis of the coil along the long axis of the body (e.g., superconducting magnets and most resistive magnets) as opposed to solenoid or surface coil.


. Safety concerns in MR include magnetic field strength, RF heating (SAR) induced currents due to rapidly varying magnetic fields (dB/dt), effects on implanted devices such as pacemakers, magnetic torque effects on indwelling metal such as clips and possible “missile effect” of magnetic forces, and acoustic noise.

Sagittal plane.

The plane which is defined by the head-to-foot and anterior-to-posterior directions in the human body. A stack of images acquired in the sagittal plane separates images by their left-to-right locations. The mid-line sagittal plane bisects the left and right half of the human body. See also Orientation.


. Conversion of the continuous (analog) signal to a series of discrete (digital) values by measurement at a set of particular times; this utilizes the analog to digital converter. If the rate of sampling is less than twice the highest frequency in the signal, aliasing will occur. The duration of sampling determines how small a difference of frequencies can be separated.

Sampling window

. See Acquisition window.


. See Specific Absorption Rate.


. A nonequilibrium state in MR, in which equal numbers of spins are aligned against and with the magnetic field, so that there is no net magnetization. Can be produced by repeatedly applying RF pulses at the Larmor frequency with interpulse times short compared to T1.

Saturation pulses

. Sequence of RF (and gradient) pulses designed to produce saturation, typically in a selected region or set of regions, most often by the use of selective excitation followed by a spoiler pulse. Similar to some spectral suppression techniques. Can be used to reduce signal from flowing blood by saturating regions upstream from region being imaged.

Saturation recovery (SR)

. Particular type of partial saturation pulse sequence in which the preceding pulses leave the spins in a state of saturation, so that recovery at the time of the next pulse has taken place from an initial condition of no magnetization.

Saturation transfer (or Inversion transfer)

. Nuclei can retain their magnetic orientation through a chemical reaction. Thus, if RF radiation is supplied to the spins at a frequency corresponding to the chemical shift of the nuclei in one chemical state so as to produce saturation or inversion, and chemical reactions transform the nuclei into another chemical state with a different chemical shift in a time short compared to the relaxation time, the NMR spectrum may show the effects of the saturation or inversion on the corresponding, unirradiated, line in the spectrum. This technique can be used to study reaction kinetics of suitable molecules.


. A quantity having only magnitude.


. See Spin echo.

Segmented k-space data acquisition

. A set of k-space lines collected in a specified order but not constituting a complete coverage of k-space. Several segmental acquisitions may need to be run for complete coverage of k-space. For example, rapidly acquiring eight k-space lines per segment after each trigger until 128 lines of k-space are acquired in 16 triggers.

Selective excitation

. Controlling the frequency spectrum of an irradiating RF pulse (via tailoring) while imposing a magnetic field gradient on spins, such that only a desired region will have a suitable resonant frequency to be excited. Originally used to excite all but a desired region; now more commonly used to select only a desired region, such as a plane, for excitation. Used without simultaneous magnetic field gradients, tailored RF pulses can be used to selectively excite a particular spectral line or group of lines. RF and gradient pulse combinations can be designed to select both spatial regions and spectral frequencies.

Selective irradiation

. See Selective excitation.


. Magnetic shielding by attaching a high permeability yoke to the magnet (passive shielding) or by incorporating additional magnetic field-generating coils designed to reduce the external field (active shielding). See also Magnetic shielding.

Sensitive plane

. Technique of selecting a plane for sequential plane imaging by using an oscillating magnetic field gradient and filtering out the corresponding time dependent part of the MR signal. The gradient used is at right angles to the desired plane and the magnitude of the oscillating magnetic field gradient is equal to zero only in the desired plane.

Sensitive point

. Technique of selecting out a point for sequential point imaging by applying three orthogonal oscillating magnetic field gradients such that the local magnetic field is time-dependent everywhere except at the desired point, and then filtering out the corresponding time dependent portion of the MR signal.

Sensitive volume

. Region of the object from which MR signal will preferentially be acquired because of strong magnetic field inhomogeneity elsewhere. Effect can be enhanced by use of a shaped RF field that is strongest in the sensitive region.

Sequence time

. See TR..

Sequential line imaging (Line scanning, Line imaging)

. MR imaging techniques in which the image is built up from successive lines through the object. In various schemes, the lines are isolated by oscillating magnetic field gradients or selective excitation, and then the MR signals from the selected line are encoded for position by detecting the FID or spin echo in the presence of a magnetic field gradient along the line; the Fourier transform of the detected signal then yields the distribution of emitted MR signal along the line.

Sequential plane imaging (Planar imaging)

. MR imaging technique in which the image of an object is built up from successive planes in the object. In various schemes, the planes are selected by oscillating magnetic field gradients or selective excitation.

Sequential point imaging (Point scanning)

. MR imaging techniques in which the image is built from successive point positions in the object. In various schemes, the points are isolated by oscillating magnetic field gradients (sensitive point) or shaped magnetic fields.


. See Steady state free precession.

Shaped pulse

. See Tailored pulse.

Shielded gradient coils

. Current-carrying gradient coils with reduced gradient fringe field inside of the magnet cryostat structures like cryoshields and He-vessel. The shielding can be accomplished by secondary actively driven coils or by passive screens which are inductively coupled to the gradient coils. In both cases eddy currents outside of the gradient system will be reduced.


. See Magnetic shielding, Cryoshielding, RF shielding, or Faraday shield.

Shift reagents

. Paramagnetic compounds designed to induce a shift in the resonance frequency of nuclei with which they interact. For example, many rare earths have been used as shift reagents for positive metal ions such as sodium and potassium.

Shim coils

. Coils carrying a relatively small current that are used to provide auxiliary magnetic fields in order to compensate for inhomogeneities in the main magnetic field of an MR system.


. Correction of inhomogeneity of the magnetic field produced by the main magnet of an MR system due to imperfections in the magnet or to the presence of external ferromagnetic objects. May involve changing the configuration of the magnet or the addition of shim coils (active shimming) or small pieces of steel (passive shimming).

SI (International System of Units).

The preferred international standard system of physical units and measures.

Signal averaging

. The averaging together of signals acquired under the same or similar conditions so as to suppress the effects of random variations or random artifacts. The number of signals averaged together can be abbreviated NSA.

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N).

Used to describe the relative contributions to a detected signal of the true signal and random superimposed signals (“noise“). One common method to improve (increase) the SNR is to average several measurements of the signal on the expectation that random contributions will tend to cancel out. The SNR can also be improved by sampling larger volumes (with a corresponding loss of spatial resolution) or, within limits, by increasing the strength of the magnetic field used. Surface coils can also be used to improve local SNR. The SNR will depend, in part, on the electrical properties of the sample or patient being studied.

Signal suppression

. The elimination or reduction of a particular signal by, for example, the application of a narrow band frequency-selective preparation pulse centered at the resonant frequency of the signal. This can also be accomplished using an inversion recovery technique to null the signal as it recovers its longitudinal magnetization.

Sinc interpolation

. A method of interpolating image data by zero filling the high spatial-frequency components of the raw data so that after Fourier transformation the image matrix size has been increased. This method can significantly improve the image display.

Single-shot imaging.

The process of acquiring all data needed to form a two-dimensional image with a single excitation pulse. Echo-planar imaging is an example of single-shot imaging.

Skin depth

. Time-dependent electromagnetic fields are significantly attenuated by conducting media (including the human body); the skin depth gives a measure of the average depth of penetration of the RF field. It may be a limiting factor in MR imaging at very high frequencies (high magnetic fields). The skin depth also affects the Q of the coils.


. The effective physical extent of the “planar” region being imaged.

Slice profile

. The spatial distribution of sensitivity of the imaging process in the direction perpendicular to the plane of the slice. When the profile deviates appreciably from rectangular, the slice thickness alone may not provide an adequate description.

Slice selection.

The excitation of spins in a limited planar section of tissue by applying a gradient (the slice-selective gradient) while sending a narrow-band radiofrequency pulse of appropriate frequencies into the subject.

Slice thickness

. The thickness of a slice. As the slice profile may not be sharp edged, a criterion such as the distance between the points at half the sensitivity of the maximum (FWHM) or the equivalent rectangular width (the width of a rectangular slice profile with the same maximum height and same area) may be useful.


. See Signal-to-noise ratio.


. See Signal-to-noise ratio.

Solenoid coil

. A coil of wire wound in the form of a long cylinder. When a current is passed through the coil, the magnetic field within the coil is relatively uniform. Solenoid RF coils are commonly used when the static magnetic field is perpendicular to the long axis of the body.

Solvent suppression

. See Suppression.

Spatial frequency

. A dimension of the Fourier transform space (k-space representation of an image), having units of inverse distance. Higher values of spatial frequencies correspond to finer detail in the image.

Spatial resolution

. The smallest distance between two points in the object that can be distinguished as separate details in the image, generally indicated as a length or a number of black and white line pairs per mm. The specific criterion for resolution to be used depends on the type of test used (e.g., bar pattern or contrast-detail phantom). As the ability to separate or detect objects depends on their contrast and the noise, and the different MR parameters of objects will affect image contrast differently for different imaging techniques, care must be taken in comparing the results of resolution phantom tests of different machines and no single simple measure of resolution can be specified. The resolution may be anisotropic.

The resolution may be larger than the size corresponding to the discrete image element (

pixel), although it cannot be smaller.

Spatially localized spectroscopy

. Process by which regions of tissue are selectively sampled to produce spectra from defined volumes in space. These methods may be employed to sample a single region in space (single voxel method) or multiple regions simultaneously (multivoxel methods). The spatial selectivity can be achieved by a variety of methods including surface coils, surface coils in conjunction with RF gradient methods, or RF pulses in combination with switched magnetic field gradients, for example, volume-selective excitation. An indirect method of achieving spatial selectivity is the destruction of coherence of the magnetization in regions that lie outside the region of interest. A variety of spatial encoding schemes have been employed for multivoxel localization. See Chemical shift imaging.

Spatial-spectral (or spectral-spatial) excitation.

Excitation that is both spatially and spectrally selective. This is generally accomplished by using composite excitation, with 180o phase cycling between water and fat (CH2) magnetization during the inter-pulse intervals. For example, selective excitation of water in an image slice can be accomplished at 1.5T using a 1-2-1 composite pulse, consisting of a combination of 22.5o, 45o, and 22.5o pulses, with about 2.25 msec between each. This will impart 90o excitation to water and no excitation to fat.

Specific absorption rate (SAR) (W/kg)

. Time varying electromagnetic fields can deposit energy in tissues. This energy is deposited mostly in the form of heat which is considered the primary mechanism of biological effect. The specific absorption rate (SAR) is defined as the energy dissipated in tissue (watts) per kilogram of tissue mass. Inhomogeneity of the RF fields leads to a local exposure where most of the power that is absorbed is applied to one body region rather than the entire person, leading to the concept of a local SAR. Averaging over the whole body leads to the global SAR.

Spectral editing

. Methods of selectively enhancing or suppressing the signal from a particular molecular substance by using its spin properties, typically through spin-spin coupling, e.g., J-modulation.

Spectral line

. Particular distinct frequency or narrow band of frequencies at which resonance occurs corresponding to a particular chemical shift.

Spectral width

. The overall width in hertz needed to observe a particular NMR spectrum. This width is generally set using the Nyquist limit; namely, that the temporal sampling rate must be equal to twice the maximum spread in frequencies.


. The portions of the MR apparatus that actually produce the NMR phenomenon and acquire the signals, including the magnet, the probe, the RF circuitry, the gradient coils, etc. The spectrometer is controlled by the rom via the interface under the direction of the rom.


. See Magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Spectroscopic imaging.

MR techniques that permit acquisition of an MR spectrum for each pixel or voxel in the MR image. The resulting acquired data can then be presented as an MR spectrum for each pixel or voxel or as an image or set of images that reflects the intensity of a particular spectral peak at each spatial location in two- or three-dimensions.


. An array of the frequency components of the MR signal according to frequency. Nuclei with different resonant frequencies will show up as values at different corresponding frequencies in the spectrum. When resonances are relatively isolated they appear as peaks or “lines” in the spectrum.


. The intrinsic angular momentum of an elementary particle, or system of particles such as a nucleus, that is also responsible for the magnetic moment; or, a particle or nucleus possessing such a spin. The spins of nuclei have characteristic fixed values. Pairs of neutrons and protons align to cancel out their spins, so that nuclei with an odd number of neutrons and/or protons will have a net nonzero rotational component characterized by an integer or half integer quantum “nuclear spin number” (I).

Spin density (N)

. The density of resonating spins in a given region; one of the principal determinants of the strength of the MR signal from the region. The SI units would be moles/m3. For water, there are about 1.1 x 105 moles of hydrogen per m3, or .11 moles of hydrogen/cm3. True spin density is not imaged directly, but must be calculated from signals received with different interpulse times.

Spin echo (SE)

. The RF pulse sequence where a 90° excitation pulse is followed by a 180° refocusing pulse to eliminate field inhomogeneity and chemical shift effects at the echo. RF spin echo would be a more appropriate name.

Spin echo imaging

. Any of many MR imaging techniques in which the spin echo is used rather than the FID. Can be used to create images that depend strongly on T2 if TE has a value on the order of or greater than T2 of the relevant image details. Note that spin echo imaging does not directly produce an image of T2 distribution. The spin echoes can be produced as a train of multiple echoes, e.g., using the CPMG pulse sequence.

Spin-lattice relaxation time

. See T1.

Spin number, nuclear

. See Spin quantum number.

Spin quantum number (I).

Property of all nuclei related to the largest measurable component of the nuclear angular momentum. Non-zero values of nuclear angular momentum are quantized (fixed) as integral or half-integral multiples of (h/2π), where h is Planck’s constant. The number of possible energy levels for a given nucleus in a fixed magnetic field is equal to 2I + 1. Similarly, an unpaired electron has a spin of 1/2 and two possible energy levels.

Spin-spin coupling

. MR spectral lines may consist of groups of lines called multiplets. This multiplet structure is caused by interactions between nuclei that split the NMR energy levels and result in the observation of multiple allowed transitions separated by an amount of energy related to J, the spin-spin coupling constant. These interactions are called spin-spin coupling.

Spin-spin relaxation time

. See T2.

Spin tagging

. A method used to trace the motion or flow of tissue. Nuclei will retain their magnetic orientation for a time on the order of T1 even in the presence of motion. Thus, if the nuclei in a given region have their spin orientation changed, the altered spins will serve as a “tag” to trace the motion for a time on the order of T1 of any fluid that may have been in the tagged region.

Spin warp imaging

. A form of Fourier transform imaging in which phase-encoding gradient pulses are applied for a constant duration but with varying amplitude. The spin warp method, as other Fourier imaging techniques, is relatively tolerant of nonuniformities (inhomogeneities) in the magnetic fields.

Spiral k-space coverage

. Acquisition of data whose views cover a spiral in k-space. It is accomplished by applying an oscillatory gradient which increases in amplitude as a function of time.

Spoiler gradient pulse

. Magnetic field gradient pulse applied to effectively remove transverse magnetization by producing a rapid variation of its phase along the direction of the gradient. For example, when used to remove the unwanted signal resulting from an imperfect 180° refocusing RF pulse, a corresponding compensating gradient pulse may be applied prior to the refocusing RF pulse in order to avoid spoiling the desired transverse magnetization resulting from the initial excitation. Also called homospoil pulse.


. See Saturation recovery.


. See Steady state free precession.

Steady-state coherent

. A state of spins which leads to an equilibrium magnetization for the longitudinal and transverse magnetization, or, when the magnetization at, or after, each RF pulse is the same as in the previous pulse.

Steady state free precession (SFP or SSFP)

. Method of MR excitation in which strings of RF pulses are applied rapidly and repeatedly with interpulse intervals short compared to both T1 and T2. Alternating the phases of the RF pulses by 180° can be useful. The MR signal reforms as an echo immediately before each RF pulse; immediately after the RF pulse there is additional signal from the FID produced by the pulse. The strength of the FID will depend on the time between pulses (TR), the magnetization of the tissue, and the flip angle of the pulse; the strength of the echo will additionally depend on the T2 of the tissue. SSFP may be used as a means of rapid-excitation MR imaging. With the use of appropriate dephasing gradients, the signal can be observed as a frequency-encoded gradient echo either shortly before the RF pulse or after it; the signal immediately before the RF pulse will be more highly T2-weighted. The signal immediately after the RF pulse in a rapid series of RF pulses will depend on T2 as well as T1 unless measures are taken to destroy signal refocusing and prevent the development of steady state free precession. To avoid setting up a state of SSFP when using rapidly repeated excitation RF pulses, it may be necessary to spoil the phase coherence between excitations, e.g., with varying phase shifts or timing of the exciting RF pulses or varying spoiler gradient pulses between the excitations.

Stimulated echo

. A form of spin echo produced by three-pulse RF sequences, consisting of two RF pulses following an initial exciting RF pulse. The stimulated echo appears at a time delay after the third pulse equal to the interval between the first two pulses. Although classically produced with 90° pulses, any RF pulses other than an ideal 180° can produce a stimulated echo. The intensity of the echo depends in part on the T1 relaxation time because the excitation is “stored” as longitudinal magnetization between the second and third RF pulses. For example, use of stimulated echoes with spatially selective excitation with orthogonal magnetic field gradients permits volume-selective excitation for spectroscopic localization.

Superconducting magnet

. A magnet whose magnetic field originates from current flowing through a superconductor. Such a magnet must be enclosed in a cryostat.


. A substance whose electrical resistance essentially disappears at temperatures near absolute zero. A commonly used superconductor in MR imaging system magnets is niobium-titanium, embedded in a copper matrix to help protect the superconductor from quenching.


. One of a number of techniques designed to minimize the contribution of a particular component of the object to the detected signal. For example, commonly used to suppress the strong signal from water in order to detect spectral line from other components.

Surface coil

. Receiver coil that does not surround the body and is placed close to the surface of the body. Used to restrict the region of the body contributing to the detected signal. As only the region close to the surface coil will contribute to the noise, there may be an improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio for regions close to the coil, compared to the use of receiver coils that surround the corresponding part of the body.

Surface coil MR

. A surface coil placed over a region of interest will have an effective selectivity for a volume approximately subtended by the coil circumference and one radius deep from the coil center. Such a coil can be used for simple localization of sites for measurement of chemical shift spectra, especially of phosphorus, and blood flow studies. Some additional spatial selectivity can be achieved with magnetic field gradients.


. See Magnetic susceptibility.

Susceptibility artifact

. The loss of MR signal in voxels or regions with varying magnetic susceptibility (magnetic non-uniformities) due to greater T2* decay. Susceptibility artifacts are more obvious in pulse sequences weighted more heavily by T2* effects, such as gradient-echo imaging.

Switchable coil

. An RF array coil consisting of several separately resonant elements, any one of which can be selected as the receiver coil at a particular time. Coils not in use are decoupled. Applications of switchable coils include imaging the whole spine without patient repositioning (where the coil elements may collectively be known as a ladder coil), imaging of bilateral structures such as TMJ or orbit using separate coils, or imaging using a coil with selectable field-of-view.

Synchronization, cardiac

. Acquiring images of particular phases of the cardiac cycle, through either retrospective or prospective synchronization. Also sometimes called cardiac gating.

Synchronization, prospective

. Controlling the timing or sequence of image data acquisition according to the phase of respiratory or cardiac cycles. See also Triggering.

Synchronization, respiratory

. The respiratory phase can be used to control imaging either by only acquiring the image data during a particular portion of the respiratory cycle (which increases image acquisition time) or by adjusting the sequence of image data collection according to the phase of the respiratory cycle in such a way as to minimize motion-induced artifacts in the reconstructed image. See also Respiratory ordering of phase encoding.

Synchronization, retrospective

. Sorting and possibly adjusting image data acquired asynchronously with the cardiac or respiratory cycle, according to the phase of the cycle at which it was acquired, so as to reconstruct a set of images corresponding to different phases of the cycle. See also retrospective respiratory gating.



. See Tesla.


1 or T1 (“T-one”)

. Spin-lattice or longitudinal relaxation time; the characteristic time constant for spins to tend to align themselves with the external magnetic field. Starting from zero magnetization in the z direction, the z magnetization will grow to 63% of its final maximum value in a time T1.

T1-weighted (T1W).

Often used to indicate an image where most of the contrast between tissues or tissue states is due to differences in tissue T1. This term may be misleading in that the potentially important effects of tissue density differences and the range of tissue T1 values are ignored. A T1 contrast state is approached by imaging with a TR short compared to the longest tissue T1 of interest and TE short compared to tissue T2 (to reduce T2 contributions to image contrast). Due to the wide range of T1 and T2 and tissue density values that can be found in the body, an image that is T1-weighted for some tissues may not be so for others.


2 or T2 (“T-two”).

Spin-spin or transverse relaxation time; the characteristic time constant for loss of phase coherence among spins oriented at an angle to the static magnetic field, due to interactions between the spins, with resulting loss of transverse magnetization and MR signal. Starting from a nonzero value of the magnetization in the xy plane, the xy magnetization will decay so that it loses 63% of its initial values in a time T2, if relaxation is characterized by a simple single exponential decay.

T2* (“T-two-star”)

. The observed time constant of the FID due to loss of phase coherence among spins oriented at an angle to the static magnetic field, commonly due to a combination of magnetic field inhomogeneities, ΔB, and spin-spin transverse relaxation with resultant more rapid loss in transverse magnetization and MR signal. MR signals can usually still be recovered as a spin echo in times less than or on the order of T2. 1/T2* ≅ 1/T2 + Δω/2; Δω = γΔB. Note that the FID will generally not be an exponential, so that T2* will not be unique.

T2-weighted (T2W)

. Often used to indicate an image where most of the contrast between tissues or tissue states is due to differences in tissue T2. This term may be misleading in that the potentially important effects of tissue density differences and the range of tissue T2 values are often ignored. A T2 contrast state is approached by imaging with a TR long compared to tissue T1 (to reduce T1 contribution to image contrast) and a TE between the longest and shortest tissue T2s of interest. A TR greater than 3 times the longest T1 is required for the T1 effect to be less than 5%. Due to the wide range of T1 and T2 and tissue density values that can be found in the body, an image that is T2-weighted for some tissues may not be so for others.


. Duration of acquisition window (time of analog to digital conversion).


. See Spin tagging.

Tailored excitation

. See Selective excitation.

Tailored pulse

. Shaped pulse whose magnitude (and possibly phase) is varied with time in a predetermined manner. Affects the frequency components of an RF pulse in a manner determined by the Fourier transform of the pulse.


. Difference in time of formation of RF spin echo (TER) and gradient echo (TE).


. Echo time. Time between middle of exciting (e.g., 90°) RF pulse and middle of spin echo production. For multiple echos, use TE1, TE2, etc. When the RF spin echo and gradient echo are not coincident in time, TE refers to the time of the gradient spin echo.

Temporal resolution

. The shortest time duration between two events that can be measured with an MR experiment.


. Time of formation of RF spin echo, when adjusted to be different from gradient spin echo.

Tesla (T)

. The preferred (SI) unit of magnetic flux density. One tesla is equal to 10,000 gauss, the older (CGS) unit.

Thermal equilibrium

. A state in which all parts of a system are at the same effective temperature, in particular where the relative alignment of the spins with the magnetic field is determined solely by the thermal energy of the system (in which case the relative numbers of spins with different alignments will be given by the Boltzmann distribution).

Three-dimensional Fourier transform imaging (3DFT)

. A form of Fourier transform imaging in which an entire volume of data is collected simultaneously. This form of Fourier transform imaging requires phase-encoding to be used to separate individual planar sections within the volume, in addition to phase-encoding and frequency encoding in the two orthogonal directions. 3DFT imaging eliminates gaps or low signal areas between individual “slices” and generally has higher signal-to-noise ratios than 2DFT imaging. See also Volume imaging.


. Inversion time. In inversion recovery, time between middle of inverting (180°) RF pulse and middle of the subsequent exciting (90°) pulse to detect amount of longitudinal magnetization.


. When the local magnetization of moving tissue or fluid is selectively altered in a region, e.g., by selective excitation, it will carry the altered magnetization with it when it moves, thus tagging the selected region for times on the order of the relaxation times. This is the source of several flow effects.

Tip angle

. See Flip angle.


. A vector quantity given by the vector product of the force and the position vector where the force is applied; for a rotating body, the torque is the product of the moment of inertia and the resulting angular acceleration.


. Repetition time. The period of time between the beginning of a pulse sequence and the beginning of the succeeding (essentially identical) pulse sequence.

Transaxial plane.

The plane perpendicular to long axis of the human body (head-to-foot). Acquiring images in the transaxial plane acquires a stack of parallel images in the head-to-foot direction. Sometimes referred to as the “axial plane” or “transverse plane”. See also Orientation.

Transmit/receive (T/R) coil

. An RF coil that acts as both a transmitter (T) producing the B1 excitation field, and as a receiver (R) of the MR signal. Such a coil requires a T/R switching circuit to switch between

the two modes. A body coil is typically a T/R coil, but smaller volume T/R coils (head/extremities) are often used at high field as a means of reducing RF power absorption.


. Portion of the MR apparatus that produces RF current and delivers it to the transmitting coil.

Transmitter coil

. Coil of the RF transmitter, used in excitation of the spins.

Transverse magnetization (M


. Component of the macroscopic magnetization vector at right angles to the static magnetic field (B0). Precession of the transverse magnetization at the Larmor frequency is responsible for the detectable MR signal. In the absence of externally applied RF magnetic field, the transverse magnetization will decay to zero with a characteristic time constant of T2 or T2*.

Transverse plane.

The plane perpendicular to long axis of the human body (head-to-foot). Sometimes referred to as the “transaxia planel” or “axial plane”. See also Orientation.

Transverse relaxation.

The loss of magnetization in the plane perpendicular to the static magnetic field, Bo.

Transverse relaxation time

. See T2.

Traveling saturation pulse

. A saturation pulse which moves from one spatial location to another for each RF pulse excitation or each MR slice acquired.

Trigger delay time

. The time after triggering at which data acquisition takes place.


. Generation of an electrical pulse, upon detection of a physiological signal, that can be used to initiate a synchronized data-acquisition pulse sequence.

Truncation artifact

. Artifactual ripples adjacent to edges in an image or sharp features in a spectrum, caused by omission of higher frequency terms in Fourier transform, particularly with the use of zero filling to replace unsampled higher frequencies. See also apodization and Gibbs phenomenon.

Two dimensional Fourier transform imaging (2DFT)

. A form of sequential plane imaging using Fourier transform imaging.


. Process of adjusting the resonant frequency, e.g., of the RF circuit, to the desired value, e.g., the Larmor frequency. More generally, the process of adjusting the components of the spectrometer for optimal performance, including matching impedances.

Twister gradient

. A gradient pulse designed to dephase low spatial-frequency components in an image. The simplest such design is to choose the gradient strength so that a linear phase change of –π to π is generated across the image.

Two-dimensional MR

. Form of MR spectroscopy in which an additional dimension is added to the conventional chemical shift dimension by allowing varying amounts of different interactions between spin systems (such as NOE, spin-spin coupling or exchange).


Variable flip angle

. The temporal variation of flip angle (from one RF pulse to the next) to enhance SNR, and/or equalize the signal intensity for each phase encoding step.

Variable TE

. The variation of echo time from one RF pulse to the next.

Variable TR

. The variation of repetition time from one RF pulse to the next.


. A quantity having both magnitude and direction, frequently represented by an arrow whose length is proportional to the magnitude and with an arrowhead at one end to indicate the direction.

Velocity compensation

. See gradient moment nulling.

Vessel tracking

. An image post processing method to separate vessels from surrounding tissue.


. The ensemble of raw data points collected during the signal readout. For example, during Cartesian sampling, normally used to refer to data collected with a fixed value of the phase encoding gradient. Also referred to as one line of k-space. In projection reconstruction, the line is radially oriented, while in spiral imaging, it is a spiral.


See volume of interest.

Volume coil

. RF coil that surrounds a portion of the body.

Volume of interest (VOI).

A user-selected subset of voxels in a three-dimensional dataset.

Volume imaging

. Imaging techniques in which MR signals are gathered from the whole object volume to be imaged at once, with appropriate encoding pulse RF and gradient sequences to encode positions of the spins. Many sequential plane imaging techniques can be generalized to volume imaging, at least in principle. Advantages include potential improvement in signal-to-noise ratio by including signal from the whole volume at once; disadvantages include a bigger computational task for image reconstruction and longer image acquisition times (although the entire volume can be imaged from the one set of data). Also called simultaneous volume imaging or three-dimensional Fourier transform (3DFT) imaging.

Volume-selective excitation

. Selective excitation of spins in only a limited region of space. This can be particularly useful for spectroscopy as well as imaging, as spatial localization of the signal source may be achieved through spatially selective excitation and the resulting signal may be analyzed directly for the spectrum corresponding to the excited region. It is usually achieved with selective excitation. Typically, a single dimension of localization can be achieved with one selective RF excitation pulse (and a magnetic field gradient along a desired direction), while a localized volume (3-D) can be excited with a stimulated echo produced with three selective RF pulses whose selective magnetic field gradients are mutually orthogonal, having a common intersection in the desired region. Similar “crossed plane” excitation can be used with selective 180° refocussing pulses and conventional spin echoes. A degree of spatial localization of excitation can alternatively be achieved with depth pulses, e.g., when using surface coils for excitation as well as signal detection. An indirect application of selective excitation for volume-selected spectroscopy is to use appropriate combinations of signals acquired after selective inversion of different regions, in order to subtract away the signal from undesired regions.


. Volume element; the element of 3-D space corresponding to a pixel, for a given slice thickness.


Wash-in effects

. See flow-related enhancement.

Wash-out effects

. See flow void.


. The elimination or reduction of water signal from the image by application of a narrow-band frequency-selective pulse centered around the resonant frequency of the tissue.



. Dimension in the stationary (laboratory) frame of reference in the plane orthogonal (at right angles) to the direction of the static magnetic field (Bo or Ho), z, and orthogonal to y, the other dimension in this plane. This is commonly defined to be in the direction of the frequency-encoding gradient.


. Dimension in the rotating frame of reference in the plane at right angles to the direction of the static magnetic field (Bo or Ho), z; commonly defined to be in the direction of the magnetic vector of the exciting RF field (B1).


. Dimension in the stationary (laboratory) frame of reference in the plane orthogonal to the direction of the static magnetic field (Bo and Ho), z, and orthogonal to x, the other dimension in this plane. This is commonly defined to be in the direction of the phase-encoding gradient.


. Dimension in the rotating frame of reference in the plane orthogonal (at right angles) to the direction of the static magnetic field (Bo and Ho), z, and orthogonal to the other dimension in the plane, x’.


. High permeability structure used to concentrate the magnetic flux inside itself and thus decrease the magnetic fringe field and increase the field strength in the useful volume of a magnet.


. Dimension in the direction of the static magnetic field (Bo and Ho), in both the stationary and rotating frames of reference.

Zero filling

. Substitution of zeroes for unmeasured data points in order to increase the matrix size of the new data prior to Fourier transformation of MR data. This can be equivalent to performing an interpolation in the transformed data, resulting in pixels smaller than the actual resolution of the image.


. Term for MR imaging coined from Greek roots suggesting the role of the magnetic field gradient in joining the RF magnetic field to a desired local spatial region through magnetic resonance.

Symbols and Abbreviations


. See Two-dimensional Fourier transform.


. See Gyromagnetic ratio.


. See Chemical shift.


. See Permeability.


. Often used to denote different time delays between RF pulses. See Interpulse times.


. See Magnetic susceptibility.


. See Angular frequency.


o. See Larmor frequency.

Basic Quantities in Electricity and Magnetism

A generally complete understanding of the basic facts of electricity and magnetism has been available for about a century. During that time several sets of mathematical and physical quantities have been used to represent the concepts required for various applications. Some confusion has arisen from the resultant proliferation of quantities and units. The International System of Units – abbreviated SI – is being used as an attempt to improve communications among workers in various fields.

The modern theory of electricity and magnetism is based on a group of four interrelated formulas known as the Maxwell equations. These formulas describe the way in which charges produce electric fields and how charges in motion – that is, electric currents – produce magnetic fields. They also show that magnetic fields that vary with time produce electric fields and vice-versa. The basic quantities of the Maxwell equations are a magnetic field B (formally called the magnetic induction or magnetic flux density) and an electric field E. These are vector fields – that is they have both a magnitude and a direction which change from point to point in space. Ultimately the fields B and E are defined and measured in terms of forces that they exert on bodies that are charged or that carry electric currents.

Vector fields are most conveniently described in terms of their components that give the strength of the field in each of the three perpendicular directions. For example, the magnetic field vector

B has components Bx, By, and Bz along the Cartesian coordinates x, y, and z. By convention, in MR, the direction z is taken as the direction of the main magnetic field, Bo , and x and y are perpendicular to this field.

Only a few of the many quantities used in electromagnetic theory are required to understand the principles of MR. However, several others are sometimes used for specialized purposes. For this reason both the commonly used quantities and some of the less commonly used ones are described in the accompanying table. Although these definitions are technically accurate, they are not intended to be formally rigorous.


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