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Transcranial ultrafast ultrasound localization microscopy of brain vasculature in patients


Changes in cerebral blood flow are associated with stroke, aneurysms, vascular cognitive impairment, neurodegenerative diseases and other pathologies. Brain angiograms, typically performed via computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, are limited to millimetre-scale resolution and are insensitive to blood-flow dynamics. Here we show that ultrafast ultrasound localization microscopy of intravenously injected microbubbles enables transcranial imaging of deep vasculature in the adult human brain at microscopic resolution and the quantification of haemodynamic parameters. Adaptive speckle tracking to correct for micrometric brain-motion artefacts and ultrasonic-wave aberrations induced during transcranial propagation allowed us to map the vascular network of tangled arteries to functionally characterize blood-flow dynamics at a resolution of up to 25 μm and to detect blood vortices in a small deep-seated aneurysm in a patient. Ultrafast ultrasound localization microscopy may facilitate the understanding of brain haemodynamics and of how vascular abnormalities in the brain are related to neurological pathologies.

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Fig. 1: Transcranial ULM of deep brain vessels in patients.
Fig. 2: Estimation of the ULM resolution in a standard imaging case.
Fig. 3: ULM characterizes haemodynamics and discriminates diastolic and systolic flow.
Fig. 4: Clinical relevance of t-ULM for a deep-seated aneurysm.

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Data availability

Data examples are available from the repository with the identifier All raw and analysed data used in this study are available on request.

Code availability

Data samples and MATLAB codes regarding the most important steps of the processing routine are available from the Zenodo repository at Codes for the loading and management of data are available on request.


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This work was supported by a research grant from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Advanced grant agreement no. 339244-FUSIMAGINE (M.T.), by the Swiss National Foundation (Fond National Suisse) grant no. CR3213_150654 (F.P.) and the Fondation Bettencourt–Schueller. We thank L. Puke for her help with patient recruitment. We thank the NVIDIA Corporation for their support through the NVIDIA GPU Grant program and the donation of a Titan Xp GPU used for this research.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



C.D., F.P. and M.T. conceived the study. C.D., J.R. and M.P. developed the sequence acquisition and beamforming software. C.D., J.R. and F.P. acquired data. C.D., J.R., B.H., A.D., M.P. and M.T. developed data-processing algorithms. A.D. and C.D. developed the visualization algorithms. C.D., F.P. and M.T. interpreted the results. C.D. and M.T. wrote the first draft of the manuscript with substantial contribution from F.P. M.T. and F.P. co-directed the work. All authors edited and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mickael Tanter.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

M.P. and M.T. are co-founders and shareholders of the Iconeus company commercializing ultrasound neuroimaging scanners. M.T. is co-inventor of the patent WO2012080614A1 on the ultrasound localization microscopy method filed on 16 December 2010 and licenced to the Iconeus company. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Biomedical Engineering thanks James Greenleaf and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary figures and video captions.

Reporting Summary

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Supplementary Video 1

Principles and implementation of t-ULM.

Supplementary Video 2

Comparison of t-ULM and CT scan angiography.

Supplementary Video 3

Transcranial ULM of a 63-year-old patient.

Supplementary Video 4

Transcranial ULM of a 79-year-old patient.

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Demené, C., Robin, J., Dizeux, A. et al. Transcranial ultrafast ultrasound localization microscopy of brain vasculature in patients. Nat Biomed Eng 5, 219–228 (2021).

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