Strain energy and kinetic energy in the human brain were estimated by magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) during harmonic excitation of the head, and compared to characterize the effect of loading direction and frequency on brain deformation. In brain MRE, shear waves are induced by external vibration of the skull and imaged by a modified MR imaging sequence; the resulting harmonic displacement fields are typically "inverted"to estimate mechanical properties, like stiffness or damping. However, measurements of tissue motion from MRE also illuminate key features of the response of the brain to skull loading. In this study, harmonic excitation was applied in two different directions and at five different frequencies from 20 to 90 Hz. Lateral loading induced primarily left-right head motion and rotation in the axial plane; occipital loading induced anterior-posterior head motion and rotation in the sagittal plane. The ratio of strain energy to kinetic energy (SE/KE) depended strongly on both direction and frequency. The ratio of SE/KE was approximately four times larger for lateral excitation than for occipital excitation and was largest at the lowest excitation frequencies studied. These results are consistent with clinical observations that suggest lateral impacts are more likely to cause injury than occipital or frontal impacts, and also with observations that the brain has low-frequency (∼10 Hz) natural modes of oscillation. The SE/KE ratio from brain MRE is potentially a simple and powerful dimensionless metric of brain vulnerability to deformation and injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111005
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023


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