Feasibility of small animal anatomical and functional imaging with neutrons: A Monte Carlo simulation study

David C. Medich, Blake H. Currier, Andrew Karellas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A novel technique is presented for obtaining a single in-vivo image containing both functional and anatomical information in a small animal model such as a mouse. This technique, which incorporates appropriate image neutron-scatter rejection and uses a neutron opaque contrast agent, is based on neutron radiographic technology and was demonstrated through a series of Monte Carlo simulations. With respect to functional imaging, this technique can be useful in biomedical and biological research because it could achieve a spatial resolution orders of magnitude better than what presently can be achieved with current functional imaging technologies such as nuclear medicine (PET, SPECT) and fMRI. For these studies,Monte Carlo simulations were performed with thermal (0.025 eV) neutrons in a 3 cm thick phantom using the MCNP5 simulations software. The goals of these studies were to determine: 1) the extent that scattered neutrons degrade image contrast; 2) the contrasts of various normal and diseased tissues under conditions of complete scatter rejection; 3) the concentrations of Boron-10 and Gadolinium-157 required for contrast differentiation in functional imaging; and 4) the efficacy of collimation for neutron scatter image rejection. Results demonstrate that with proper neutron-scatter rejection, a neutron fluence of 2 × 107 n/cm2 will provide a signal to noise ratio of at least one (S/N ≥ 1) when attempting to image various 300 μm thick tissues placed in a 3 cm thick phantom. Similarly, a neutron fluence of only 1 × 107 n/cm2 is required to differentiate a 300 μm thick diseased tissue relative to its normal tissue counterpart. The utility of a B-10 contrast agent was demonstrated at a concentration of 50 μg/g to achieve S/N ≥ 1 in 0.3 mm thick tissues while Gd-157 requires only slightly more than 10 μg/g to achieve the same level of differentiation. Lastly, neutron collimator with an L/D ratio from 50 to 200 were calculated to provide appropriate scatter rejection for thick tissue biological imaging with neutrons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2334593
Pages (from-to)2480-2488
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Anatomical imaging
  • Functional imaging
  • Monte Carlo
  • Neutron biological imaging
  • Neutron scatter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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