Purpose: To determine the intracellular water preexchange lifetime, τi, the “average residence time” of water, in the intracellular milieu of neurons and astrocytes. The preexchange lifetime is important for modeling a variety of MR data sets, including relaxation, diffusion-sensitive, and dynamic contrast–enhanced data sets. Methods: Herein, τi in neurons and astrocytes is determined in a microbead-adherent, cultured cell system. In concert with thin-slice selection, rapid flow of extracellular media suppresses extracellular signal, allowing determination of the transcytolemmal-exchange-dominated, intracellular T1. With this knowledge, and that of the intracellular T1 in the absence of exchange, τi can be derived. Results: Under normal culture conditions, τi for neurons is 0.75 ± 0.05 s versus 0.57 ± 0.03 s for astrocytes. Both neuronal and astrocytic τis decrease within 30 min after the onset of oxygen-glucose deprivation, with the astrocytic τi showing a substantially greater decrease than the neuronal τi. Conclusions: Given an approximate intra- to extracellular volume ratio of 4:1 in the brain, these data imply that, under normal physiological conditions, an MR experimental characteristic time of less than 0.012 s is required for a nonexchanging, two-compartment (intra- and extracellular) model to be valid for MR studies. This characteristic time shortens significantly (i.e., 0.004 s) under injury conditions. Magn Reson Med 79:1616–1627, 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1616-1627
Number of pages12
JournalMagnetic resonance in medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • cerebral cortex
  • cultured cells
  • magnetic resonance
  • rat
  • relaxation


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