J Magn Reson. 2023 Jan 11;348:107376. doi: 10.1016/j.jmr.2023.107376. Online ahead of print.
Excitation in MRI is traditionally done at the Larmor frequency, where the energy of each radiofrequency photon corresponds to the energy difference between two spin states. However, if multiple radiofrequencies are employed, then multiphoton excitation can also occur when the sum or difference of multiple photon frequencies equals the Larmor frequency. Although multiphoton excitation has been known since the early days of NMR, it has been relatively unexplored in MRI. In this work, equations and principles for multiphoton selective RF pulse design in imaging are presented and experimentally demonstrated. In particular, the case where there are radiofrequency fields in both the traditional xy-direction and non-traditional z-direction is considered. To produce the z-direction radiofrequency field, an additional uniform coil was added to a clinical MRI scanner. Using this coil, two-photon slice-selective pulses were designed to be equivalent to traditional pulses, producing similar excitation, slice profiles, and in vivo images. Being the result of a combination of multiple radiofrequency fields instead of just one, two-photon pulses have more flexibility in how their parameters can be changed. Although individual multiphoton excitations are less efficient than their traditional counterparts, when the z-direction radiofrequency field is spatially non-uniform, multiple multiphoton resonances can be simultaneously used at different locations to produce simultaneous multislice excitation with the same pulse duration but less tissue heating than a naive implementation. In particular, non-uniform z-direction radiofrequency fields with negligible added tissue heating provided by oscillating the MRI scanner’s gradient fields at kilohertz frequencies were used to excite multiple slices simultaneously with less high-frequency xy-direction radiofrequency power. For an example three-slice excitation, we achieve half the xy-direction radiofrequency power compared to the naïve approach of adding three single-slice pulses. For conventional or unconventional applications, multiphoton excitation may be of interest when designing new MRI systems.