After a 90° RF pulse, net magnetization tips down so that longitudinal magnetization has disappeared and transverse magnetization has appeared.

Once the RF transmitter is turned off, relaxation happens :

  • transverse magnetization decays
  • longitudinal magnetization recovers
  • protons re-radiate the absorbed energy

Coils can receive the signal in the transverse plane due to variations of transverse magnetization vector. This signal is oscillating at resonance frequency and signal enveloppe is a decay curve described as an exponential curve.

In absence of any magnetic gradient, this signal is called Free Induction Decay (FID). FID signal decays faster than T2 would predict and decreases exponentially at characteristic time constant T2*.
T2* takes into account :

  • tissue specific spin-spin relaxation (random interactions between spins) responsible for pure T2decay
  • static inhomogeneities in magnetic fields which accelerate spins dephasing

T2* is always shorter than T2. T2* signal decay is lower than pure T2 signal decay.