A new type of magnetic resonance imaging analysis, based on fusion of three-dimensional reconstructions of time-to-peak parametric maps and high-resolution T1-weighted images, is proposed in order to evaluate the perfusion of selected volumes of interest. Because in recent years a wealth of data have suggested the crucial involvement of vascular alterations in mental diseases, we tested our new method on a restricted sample of schizophrenic patients and matched healthy controls. The perfusion of the whole brain was compared with that of the caudate nucleus by means of intrasubject analysis. As expected, owing to the encephalic vascular pattern, a significantly lower time-to-peak was observed in the caudate nucleus than in the whole brain in all healthy controls, indicating that the suggested method has enough sensitivity to detect subtle perfusion changes even in small volumes of interest. Interestingly, a less uniform pattern was observed in the schizophrenic patients. The latter finding needs to be replicated in an adequate number of subjects. In summary, the three-dimensional analysis method we propose has been shown to be a feasible tool for revealing subtle vascular changes both in normal subjects and in pathological conditions.
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