Toluene abuse: Physical basis for hypointensity of the basal ganglia on T2-weighted MR images

Evan Unger, Andrew Alexander, Thomas Fritz, Neil Rosenberg, James Dreisbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To explain the hypointensity in the basal ganglia on T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) images of brains of toluene abusers. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Eight patients with histories of toluene abuse underwent MR imaging. A bilayered model of dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC; 100 mmol/L concentration) and varying concentrations of toluene was formed. The DPPC control and toluene-mixed bilayers underwent MR imaging. T1 and T2 were measured as a function of toluene and lipid concentrations. RESULTS: T2- weighted images of patients who had abused toluene showed marked hypointensity in the thalami and moderate hypointensity in the basal ganglia. Measurements of the DPPC-toluene phantom indicated that toluene-tainted lipid bilayers dramatically shortened T2 and had little effect on T1. By comparison, DPPC itself had little discernible effect on either T1 or T2. CONCLUSION: This model suggests that partitioning of toluene into the lipid membranes of cells in cerebral tissue may be responsible for the hypointensity of basal ganglia noted on T2-weighted MR images of brains of toluene abusers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-476
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1994


  • Basal ganglia, MR
  • Brain, MR
  • Brain, effects of drugs on
  • Drugs, abuse
  • Toluene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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