This paper introduces a statistical estimation framework for magnetic resonance (MR) fingerprinting, a recently proposed quantitative imaging paradigm. Within this framework, we present a maximum likelihood (ML) formalism to estimate multiple MR tissue parameter maps directly from highly undersampled, noisy k-space data. A novel algorithm, based on variable splitting, the alternating direction method of multipliers, and the variable projection method, is developed to solve the resulting optimization problem. Representative results from both simulations and in vivo experiments demonstrate that the proposed approach yields significantly improved accuracy in parameter estimation, compared to the conventional MR fingerprinting reconstruction. Moreover, the proposed framework provides new theoretical insights into the conventional approach. We show analytically that the conventional approach is an approximation to the ML reconstruction; more precisely, it is exactly equivalent to the first iteration of the proposed algorithm for the ML reconstruction, provided that a gridding reconstruction is used as an initialization.
Magnetic resonance (MR) fingerprinting is an emerging quantitative MR imaging technique that simultaneously acquires multiple tissue parameters in an efficient experiment. In this work, we present an estimation-theoretic framework to evaluate and design MR fingerprinting experiments. More specifically, we derive the Cramer-Rao bound (CRB), a lower bound on the covariance of any unbiased estimator, to characterize parameter estimation for MR fingerprinting. We then formulate an optimal experiment design problem based on the CRB to choose a set of acquisition parameters (e.g., flip angles and/or repetition times) that maximizes the signal-to-noise ratio efficiency of the resulting experiment. The utility of the proposed approach is validated by numerical studies. Representative results demonstrate that the optimized experiments allow for substantial reduction in the length of an MR fingerprinting acquisition, and substantial improvement in parameter estimation performance.
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging