New 'super-resolution' technique improves brain PET imaging

June 15, 2021
by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief
Patient movement usually diminishes the quality of a medical scan, but new molecular imaging research turns that conventional wisdom on its head by using movement to achieve greater image clarity.

Termed super-resolution, the imaging methodology combines positron emission tomography (PET) with an external motion tracking device to create highly detailed images of the brain. Researchers say the technique has the potential to detect neurological disorders — such as Alzheimer's disease — at their earliest stages.

"This work shows that one can obtain PET images with a resolution that outperforms the scanner's resolution by making use, counterintuitively perhaps, of usually undesired patient motion," said Yanis Chemli, MSc, Ph.D., candidate at the Gordon Center for Medical Imaging in Boston, Massachusetts, in a statement. "Our technique not only compensates for the negative effects of head motion on PET image quality, but it also leverages the increased sampling information associated with imaging of moving targets to enhance the effective PET resolution."

Moving phantom and non-human primate experiments were performed on a PET scanner in conjunction with an external motion tracking device that continuously measured head movement with extremely high precision. Static reference PET acquisitions were also performed without inducing movement. After data from the imaging devices were combined, researchers recovered PET images with noticeably higher resolution than that achieved in the static reference scans.

While this super-resolution technique has only been tested in preclinical studies, researchers are currently working on extending it to human subjects. Looking to the future, Chemli noted the important impact that super-resolution may have on brain disorders, specifically Alzheimer's disease.

The research was presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) annual meeting.