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1.  Regional specificity of MRI contrast parameter changes in normal ageing revealed by voxel-based quantification (VBQ) 
Neuroimage  2011;55(4):1423-1434.
Normal ageing is associated with characteristic changes in brain microstructure. Although in vivo neuroimaging captures spatial and temporal patterns of age-related changes of anatomy at the macroscopic scale, our knowledge of the underlying (patho)physiological processes at cellular and molecular levels is still limited. The aim of this study is to explore brain tissue properties in normal ageing using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) alongside conventional morphological assessment. Using a whole-brain approach in a cohort of 26 adults, aged 18–85 years, we performed voxel-based morphometric (VBM) analysis and voxel-based quantification (VBQ) of diffusion tensor, magnetization transfer (MT), R1, and R2* relaxation parameters. We found age-related reductions in cortical and subcortical grey matter volume paralleled by changes in fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), MT and R2*. The latter were regionally specific depending on their differential sensitivity to microscopic tissue properties. VBQ of white matter revealed distinct anatomical patterns of age-related change in microstructure. Widespread and profound reduction in MT contrasted with local FA decreases paralleled by MD increases. R1 reductions and R2* increases were observed to a smaller extent in overlapping occipito-parietal white matter regions. We interpret our findings, based on current biophysical models, as a fingerprint of age-dependent brain atrophy and underlying microstructural changes in myelin, iron deposits and water. The VBQ approach we present allows for systematic unbiased exploration of the interaction between imaging parameters and extends current methods for detection of neurodegenerative processes in the brain. The demonstrated parameter-specific distribution patterns offer insights into age-related brain structure changes in vivo and provide essential baseline data for studying disease against a background of healthy ageing.
Research highlights
►High-resolution FLASH-based parameter mapping is suitable for clinical purposes. ►Patterns of age-dependent parameter changes reflect specificity to tissue properties. ►Combining VBM and VBQ offers complementary information about brain architecture.
PMCID: PMC3093621  PMID: 21277375
Voxel-based morphometry; Voxel-based quantification; Magnetization transfer; Mean diffusivity; Fractional anisotropy; DTI; R1; R2*
2.  Brainstem Involvement as a Cause of Central Sleep Apnea: Pattern of Microstructural Cerebral Damage in Patients with Cerebral Microangiopathy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60304.
The exact underlying pathomechanism of central sleep apnea with Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSA-CSR) is still unclear. Recent studies have demonstrated an association between cerebral white matter changes and CSA. A dysfunction of central respiratory control centers in the brainstem was suggested by some authors. Novel MR-imaging analysis tools now allow far more subtle assessment of microstructural cerebral changes. The aim of this study was to investigate whether and what severity of subtle structural cerebral changes could lead to CSA-CSR, and whether there is a specific pattern of neurodegenerative changes that cause CSR. Therefore, we examined patients with Fabry disease (FD), an inherited, lysosomal storage disease. White matter lesions are early and frequent findings in FD. Thus, FD can serve as a "model disease" of cerebral microangiopathy to study in more detail the impact of cerebral lesions on central sleep apnea.
Patients and Methods
Genetically proven FD patients (n = 23) and age-matched healthy controls (n = 44) underwent a cardio-respiratory polysomnography and brain MRI at 3.0 Tesla. We applied different MR-imaging techniques, ranging from semiquantitative measurement of white matter lesion (WML) volumes and automated calculation of brain tissue volumes to VBM of gray matter and voxel-based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis.
In 5 of 23 Fabry patients (22%) CSA-CSR was detected. Voxel-based DTI analysis revealed widespread structural changes in FD patients when compared to the healthy controls. When calculated as a separate group, DTI changes of CSA-CSR patients were most prominent in the brainstem. Voxel-based regression analysis revealed a significant association between CSR severity and microstructural DTI changes within the brainstem.
Subtle microstructural changes in the brainstem might be a neuroanatomical correlate of CSA-CSR in patients at risk of WML. DTI is more sensitive and specific than conventional structural MRI and other advanced MR analyses tools in demonstrating these abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC3634049  PMID: 23637744
3.  Depressive symptoms and neuroanatomical structures in community-dwelling women: A combined voxel-based morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging study with tract-based spatial statistics 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2014;4:481-487.
Depressive symptoms, even at a subclinical level, have been associated with structural brain abnormalities. However, previous studies have used regions of interest or small sample sizes, limiting the ability to generalize the results. In this study, we examined neuroanatomical structures of both gray matter and white matter associated with depressive symptoms across the whole brain in a large sample. A total of 810 community-dwelling adult participants underwent measurement of depressive symptoms with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). The participants were not demented and had no neurological or psychiatric history. To examine the gray and white matter volume, we used structural MRI scans and voxel-based morphometry (VBM); to examine the white matter integrity, we used diffusion tensor imaging with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). In female participants, VBM revealed a negative correlation between bilateral anterior cingulate gray matter volume and the CES-D score. TBSS showed a CES-D-related decrease in fractional anisotropy and increase in radial and mean diffusivity in several white matter regions, including the right anterior cingulum. In male participants, there was no significant correlation between gray or white matter volume or white matter integrity and the CES-D score. Our results indicate that the reduction in gray matter volume and differences in white matter integrity in specific brain regions, including the anterior cingulate, are associated with depressive symptoms in women.
•We studied neuroanatomical structures associated with subclinical depression.•The analysis was performed across the whole brain in a large sample.•Anterior cingulate gray matter volume reduction was revealed by VBM.•Broad white matter integrity differences were revealed by DTI with TBSS.•Both changes were seen only in females but not in males.
PMCID: PMC3984445  PMID: 24818074
Anterior cingulate gyrus; Voxel-based morphometry; Diffusion tensor imaging; Tract-based spatial statistics; Subclinical depression; CES-D, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging; FA, fractional anisotropy; MD, mean diffusivity; RD, radial diffusivity; TBSS, tract-based spatial statistics; VBM, voxel-based morphometry
4.  Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20708.
Recent studies suggest that internet addiction disorder (IAD) is associated with structural abnormalities in brain gray matter. However, few studies have investigated the effects of internet addiction on the microstructural integrity of major neuronal fiber pathways, and almost no studies have assessed the microstructural changes with the duration of internet addiction.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the morphology of the brain in adolescents with IAD (N = 18) using an optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) technique, and studied the white matter fractional anisotropy (FA) changes using the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) method, linking these brain structural measures to the duration of IAD. We provided evidences demonstrating the multiple structural changes of the brain in IAD subjects. VBM results indicated the decreased gray matter volume in the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the supplementary motor area (SMA), the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the cerebellum and the left rostral ACC (rACC). DTI analysis revealed the enhanced FA value of the left posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and reduced FA value in the white matter within the right parahippocampal gyrus (PHG). Gray matter volumes of the DLPFC, rACC, SMA, and white matter FA changes of the PLIC were significantly correlated with the duration of internet addiction in the adolescents with IAD.
Our results suggested that long-term internet addiction would result in brain structural alterations, which probably contributed to chronic dysfunction in subjects with IAD. The current study may shed further light on the potential brain effects of IAD.
PMCID: PMC3108989  PMID: 21677775
5.  Grey and White Matter Changes across the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Frontotemporal Dementia Continuum 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43993.
There is increasing evidence that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lie on a clinical, pathological and genetic continuum with patients of one disease exhibiting features of the other. Nevertheless, to date, the underlying grey matter and white matter changes across the ALS-FTD disease continuum have not been explored. In this study fifty-three participants with ALS (n = 10), ALS-FTD (n = 10) and behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD; n = 15) as well as controls (n = 18), underwent detailed clinical assessment plus structural imaging using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis of magnetic resonance brain imaging to examine grey and white matter differences and commonalities across the continuum. Importantly, patient groups were matched for age, education, gender and disease duration. VBM and DTI results showed that changes in the ALS group were confined mainly to the motor cortex and anterior cingulate as well as their underlying white matter tracts. ALS-FTD and bvFTD showed widespread grey matter and white matter changes involving frontal and temporal lobes. Extensive prefrontal cortex changes emerged as a marker for bvFTD compared to other subtypes, while ALS-FTD could be distinguished from ALS by additional temporal lobe grey and white matter changes. Finally, ALS could be mainly distinguished from the other two groups by corticospinal tract degeneration. The present study shows for the first time that FTD and ALS overlap in anterior cingulate, motor cortex and related white matter tract changes across the whole continuum. Nevertheless, frontal and temporal atrophy as well as corticospinal tract degeneration emerged as marker for subtype classification, which will inform future diagnosis and target disease management across the continuum.
PMCID: PMC3430626  PMID: 22952843
6.  Structural Abnormalities in Early Tourette Syndrome Children: A Combined Voxel-Based Morphometry and Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e76105.
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is characterized with chronic motor and vocal tics beginning in childhood. Abnormality of both gray (GM) and white matter (WM) has been observed in cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuits and sensory-motor cortex of adult TS patient. It is not clear if these morphological changes are also present in TS children and if there are any microstructural changes of WM. To understand the developmental cause of such changes, we investigated volumetric changes of GM and WM using VBM and microstructural changes of WM using DTI, and correlated these changes with tic severity and duration. T1 images and Diffusion Tensor Images (DTI) from 21 TS children were compared with 20 age and gender matched health control children using a 1.5T Philips scanner. All of the 21 TS children met the DSM-IV-TR criteria. T1 images were analyzed using DARTEL-VBM in conjunction with statistical parametric mapping (SPM). Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis was performed using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). Brain volume changes were found in left superior temporal gyrus, left and right paracentral gyrus, right precuneous cortex, right pre- and post- central gyrus, left temporal occipital fusiform cortex, right frontal pole, and left lingual gyrus. Significant axial diffusivity (AD) and mean diffusivity (MD) increases were found in anterior thalamic radiation, right cingulum bundle projecting to the cingulate gurus and forceps minor. Decreases in white matter volume (WMV) in the right frontal pole were inversely related with tic severity (YGTSS), and increases in AD and MD were positively correlated with tic severity and duration, respectively. These changes in TS children can be interpreted as signs of neural plasticity in response to the experiential demand. Our findings may suggest that the morphological and microstructural measurements from structural MRI and DTI can potentially be used as a biomarker of the pathophysiologic pattern of early TS children.
PMCID: PMC3786886  PMID: 24098769
7.  Combined analysis of grey matter voxel-based morphometry and white matter tract-based spatial statistics in late-life bipolar disorder 
Previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in young patients with bipolar disorder indicated the presence of grey matter concentration changes as well as microstructural alterations in white matter in various neocortical areas and the corpus callosum. Whether these structural changes are also present in elderly patients with bipolar disorder with long-lasting clinical evolution remains unclear.
We performed a prospective MRI study of consecutive elderly, euthymic patients with bipolar disorder and healthy, elderly controls. We conducted a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis and a tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) analysis to assess fractional anisotropy and longitudinal, radial and mean diffusivity derived by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
We included 19 patients with bipolar disorder and 47 controls in our study. Fractional anisotropy was the most sensitive DTI marker and decreased significantly in the ventral part of the corpus callosum in patients with bipolar disorder. Longitudinal, radial and mean diffusivity showed no significant between-group differences. Grey matter concentration was reduced in patients with bipolar disorder in the right anterior insula, head of the caudate nucleus, nucleus accumbens, ventral putamen and frontal orbital cortex. Conversely, there was no grey matter concentration or fractional anisotropy increase in any brain region in patients with bipolar disorder compared with controls.
The major limitation of our study is the small number of patients with bipolar disorder.
Our data document the concomitant presence of grey matter concentration decreases in the anterior limbic areas and the reduced fibre tract coherence in the corpus callosum of elderly patients with long-lasting bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC3201993  PMID: 21284917
8.  Grey and white matter abnormalities in temporal lobe epilepsy with and without mesial temporal sclerosis 
Journal of neurology  2013;260(9):10.1007/s00415-013-6974-3.
Temporal lobe epilepsy with (TLE-mts) and without (TLE-no) mesial temporal sclerosis display different patterns of cortical neuronal loss, suggesting that the distribution of white matter damage may also differ between the sub-groups. The purpose of this study was to examine patterns of white matter damage in TLE-mts and TLE-no and to determine if identified changes are related to neuronal loss at the presumed seizure focus. The 4 T diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and T1-weighted data were acquired for 22 TLE-mts, 21 TLE-no and 31 healthy controls. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used to compare fractional anisotropy (FA) maps and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to identify grey matter (GM) volume atrophy. Correlation analysis was conducted between the FA maps and neuronal loss at the presumed seizure focus. In TLE-mts, reduced FA was identified in the genu, body and splenium of the corpus callosum, bilateral corona radiata, cingulum, external capsule, ipsilateral internal capsule and uncinate fasciculus. In TLE-no, FA decreases were identified in the genu, the body of the corpus callosum and ipsilateral anterior corona radiata. The FA positively correlated with ipsilateral hippocampal volume. Widespread extra-focal GM atrophy was associated with both sub-groups. Despite widespread and extensive GM atrophy displaying different anatomical patterns in both sub-groups, TLE-mts demonstrated more extensive FA abnormalities than TLE-no. The microstructural organization in the corpus callosum was related to hippocampal volume in both patients and healthy subjects demonstrating the association of these distal regions.
PMCID: PMC3845492  PMID: 23754695
Temporal lobe epilepsy; FA; DTI; TBSS; VBM; DARTEL
9.  Assessing the Correlation between Grey and White Matter Damage with Motor and Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63250.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by demyelinating and degenerative processes within the central nervous system. Unlike conventional MRI,new advanced imaging techniques improve pathological specificity and better highlight the relationship between anatomical damage and clinical impairment.
To investigate the relationship between clinical disability and both grey (GM) and white matter (WM) regional damage in MS patients.
Thirty-six relapsing remitting-MS patients and 25 sex- and age-matched controls were enrolled. All patients were clinically evaluated by the Expanded Disability Status Scale and the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC) scale, which includes the 9-hole peg test (9HPT), the timed 25-feet walking test (T25FW) and the paced auditory serial addition test (PASAT). All subjects were imaged by a 3.0 T scanner: dual-echo fast spin-echo, 3DT1-weighted and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) sequences were acquired. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) analyses were run for regional GM and WM assessment, respectively. T2 lesion volumes were also calculated, by using a semi-automated technique.
Brain volumetric assessment of GM and DTI measures revealed significant differences between patients and controls. In patients, different measures of WM damage correlated each-other (p<0.0001), whereas none of them correlated with GM volume. In patients, focal GM atrophy and widespread WM damage significantly correlated with clinical measures. In particular, VBM analysis revealed a significant correlation (p<0.05) between GM volume and 9HPT in cerebellum and between GM volume and PASAT in orbito-frontal cortex. TBSS showed significant correlations between DTI metrics with 9HPT and PASAT scores in many WM bundles (p<0.05), including corpus callosum, internal capsule, posterior thalamic radiations, cerebral peduncles.
Selective GM atrophy and widespread WM tracts damage are associated with functional impairment of upper-limb motion and cognition. The combined analysis of volumetric and DTI data may help to better understand structural alterations underlying physical and cognitive dysfunction in MS.
PMCID: PMC3655958  PMID: 23696802
10.  White Matter in Aging and Cognition: A Cross-sectional Study of Microstructure in Adults Aged Eighteen to Eighty-Three 
Developmental neuropsychology  2010;35(3):257-277.
Structural brain change and concomitant cognitive decline are the seemingly unavoidable escorts of aging. Despite accumulating studies detailing the effects of age on the brain and cognition, the relationship between white matter features and cognitive function in aging have only recently received attention and remain incompletely understood. White matter microstructure can be measured with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), but whether DTI can provide unique information on brain aging that is not explained by white matter volume is not known. In the current study, the relationship between white matter microstructure, age and neuropsychological function was assessed using DTI in a statistical framework that employed white matter volume as a voxel-wise covariate in a sample of 120 healthy adults across a broad age range (18–83). Memory function and executive function were modestly correlated with the DTI measures while processing speed showed the greatest extent of correlation. The results suggest that age-related white matter alterations underlie age-related declines in cognitive function. Mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy in several white matter brain regions exhibited a non-linear relationship with age, while white matter volume showed a primarily linear relationship with age. The complex relationships between cognition, white matter microstructure, and white matter volume still require further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2895988  PMID: 20446132
11.  CSF T-Tau/Aβ42 Predicts White Matter Microstructure in Healthy Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e37720.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers T-Tau and Aβ42 are linked with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), yet little is known about the relationship between CSF biomarkers and structural brain alteration in healthy adults. In this study we examined the extent to which AD biomarkers measured in CSF predict brain microstructure indexed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and volume indexed by T1-weighted imaging. Forty-three middle-aged adults with parental family history of AD received baseline lumbar puncture and MRI approximately 3.5 years later. Voxel-wise image analysis methods were used to test whether baseline CSF Aβ42, total tau (T-Tau), phosphorylated tau (P-Tau) and neurofilament light protein predicted brain microstructure as indexed by DTI and gray matter volume indexed by T1-weighted imaging. T-Tau and T-Tau/Aβ42 were widely correlated with indices of brain microstructure (mean, axial, and radial diffusivity), notably in white matter regions adjacent to gray matter structures affected in the earliest stages of AD. None of the CSF biomarkers were related to gray matter volume. Elevated P-Tau and P-Tau/Aβ42 levels were associated with lower recognition performance on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. Overall, the results suggest that CSF biomarkers are related to brain microstructure in healthy adults with elevated risk of developing AD. Furthermore, the results clearly suggest that early pathological changes in AD can be detected with DTI and occur not only in cortex, but also in white matter.
PMCID: PMC3368882  PMID: 22701578
12.  Convergent Findings of Altered Functional and Structural Brain Connectivity in Individuals with High Functioning Autism: A Multimodal MRI Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67329.
Brain tissue changes in autism spectrum disorders seem to be rather subtle and widespread than anatomically distinct. Therefore a multimodal, whole brain imaging technique appears to be an appropriate approach to investigate whether alterations in white and gray matter integrity relate to consistent changes in functional resting state connectivity in individuals with high functioning autism (HFA). We applied diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) to assess differences in brain structure and function between 12 individuals with HFA (mean age 35.5, SD 11.4, 9 male) and 12 healthy controls (mean age 33.3, SD 9.0, 8 male). Psychological measures of empathy and emotionality were obtained and correlated with the most significant DTI, VBM and fcMRI findings. We found three regions of convergent structural and functional differences between HFA participants and controls. The right temporo-parietal junction area and the left frontal lobe showed decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) values along with decreased functional connectivity and a trend towards decreased gray matter volume. The bilateral superior temporal gyrus displayed significantly decreased functional connectivity that was accompanied by the strongest trend of gray matter volume decrease in the temporal lobe of HFA individuals. FA decrease in the right temporo-parietal region was correlated with psychological measurements of decreased emotionality. In conclusion, our results indicate common sites of structural and functional alterations in higher order association cortex areas and may therefore provide multimodal imaging support to the long-standing hypothesis of autism as a disorder of impaired higher-order multisensory integration.
PMCID: PMC3688993  PMID: 23825652
13.  Brain involvement in Alström syndrome 
Alström Syndrome (AS) is a rare ciliopathy characterized by cone–rod retinal dystrophy, sensorineural hearing loss, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiomyopathy. Most patients do not present with neurological issues and demonstrate normal intelligence, although delayed psychomotor development and psychiatric disorders have been reported. To date, brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) abnormalities in AS have not been explored.
We investigated structural brain changes in 12 genetically proven AS patients (mean-age 22 years; range: 6–45, 6 females) and 19 matched healthy and positive controls (mean-age 23 years; range: 6–43; 12 females) using conventional MRI, Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).
6/12 AS patients presented with brain abnormalities such as ventricular enlargement (4/12), periventricular white matter abnormalities (3/12) and lacune-like lesions (1/12); all patients older than 30 years had vascular-like lesions. VBM detected grey and white matter volume reduction in AS patients, especially in the posterior regions. DTI revealed significant fractional anisotropy decrease and radial diffusivity increase in the supratentorial white matter, also diffusely involving those regions that appeared normal on conventional imaging. On the contrary, axial and mean diffusivity did not differ from controls except in the fornix.
Brain involvement in Alström syndrome is not uncommon. Early vascular-like lesions, gray and white matter atrophy, mostly involving the posterior regions, and diffuse supratentorial white matter derangement suggest a role of cilia in endothelial cell and oligodendrocyte function.
PMCID: PMC3584911  PMID: 23406482
Alström syndrome; MRI; DTI; VBM
14.  White matter microstructure correlates with autism trait severity in a combined clinical–control sample of high-functioning adults☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2013;3:106-114.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies have demonstrated white matter (WM) abnormalities in tracts involved in emotion processing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but little is known regarding the nature and distribution of WM anomalies in relation to ASD trait severity in adults. Increasing evidence suggests that ASD occurs at the extreme of a distribution of social abilities. We aimed to examine WM microstructure as a potential marker for ASD symptom severity in a combined clinical–neurotypical population. SIENAX was used to estimate whole brain volume. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used to provide a voxel-wise comparison of WM microstructure in 50 high-functioning young adults: 25 ASD and 25 neurotypical. The severity of ASD traits was measured by autism quotient (AQ); we examined regressions between DTI markers of WM microstructure and ASD trait severity. Cognitive abilities, measured by intelligence quotient, were well-matched between the groups and were controlled in all analyses. There were no significant group differences in whole brain volume. TBSS showed widespread regions of significantly reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) and increased mean diffusivity (MD) and radial diffusivity (RD) in ASD compared with controls. Linear regression analyses in the combined sample showed that average whole WM skeleton FA was negatively influenced by AQ (p = 0.004), whilst MD and RD were positively related to AQ (p = 0.002; p = 0.001). Regression slopes were similar within both groups and strongest for AQ social, communication and attention switching scores. In conclusion, similar regression characteristics were found between WM microstructure and ASD trait severity in a combined sample of ASD and neurotypical adults. WM anomalies were relatively more severe in the clinically diagnosed sample. Both findings suggest that there is a dimensional relationship between WM microstructure and severity of ASD traits from neurotypical subjects through to clinical ASD, with reduced coherence of WM associated with greater ASD symptoms. General cognitive abilities were independent of the relationship between WM indices and ASD traits.
•Novel comparison of white matter microstructure in neurotypical and autistic adults•White matter coherence related to autistic trait severity in combined sample•The relationship between social intelligence and white matter is independent of IQ.•White matter anomalies are significantly more pronounced in the autistic subjects.
PMCID: PMC3791280  PMID: 24179854
Autism spectrum disorder; Autism quotient; Diffusion tensor imaging; Tract-based spatial statistics; White matter
15.  Episodic Memory in Detoxified Alcoholics: Contribution of Grey Matter Microstructure Alteration 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6786.
Even though uncomplicated alcoholics may likely have episodic memory deficits, discrepancies exist regarding to the integrity of brain regions that underlie this function in healthy subjects. Possible relationships between episodic memory and 1) brain microstructure assessed by magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), 2) brain volumes assessed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) were investigated in uncomplicated, detoxified alcoholics.
Diffusion and morphometric analyses were performed in 24 alcohol dependent men without neurological or somatic complications and in 24 healthy men. The mean apparent coefficient of diffusion (ADC) and grey matter volumes were measured in the whole brain. Episodic memory performance was assessed using a French version of the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT). Correlation analyses between verbal episodic memory, brain microstructure, and brain volumes were carried out using SPM2 software.
In those with alcohol dependence, higher ADC was detected mainly in frontal, temporal and parahippocampal regions, and in the cerebellum. In alcoholics, regions with higher ADC typically also had lower grey matter volume. Low verbal episodic memory performance in alcoholism was associated with higher mean ADC in parahippocampal areas, in frontal cortex and in the left temporal cortex; no correlation was found between regional volumes and episodic memory scores. Regression analyses for the control group were not significant.
These findings support the hypothesis that regional microstructural but no macrostructural alteration of the brain might be responsible, at least in part, for episodic memory deficits in alcohol dependence.
PMCID: PMC2728538  PMID: 19707568
16.  Impact of Chemotherapy for Childhood Leukemia on Brain Morphology and Function 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78599.
Using multidisciplinary treatment modalities the majority of children with cancer can be cured but we are increasingly faced with therapy-related toxicities. We studied brain morphology and neurocognitive functions in adolescent and young adult survivors of childhood acute, low and standard risk lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which was successfully treated with chemotherapy. We expected that intravenous and intrathecal chemotherapy administered in childhood will affect grey matter structures, including hippocampus and olfactory bulbs, areas where postnatal neurogenesis is ongoing.
We examined 27 ALL-survivors and 27 age-matched healthy controls, ages 15–22 years. ALL-survivors developed disease prior to their 11th birthday without central nervous system involvement, were treated with intrathecal and systemic chemotherapy and received no radiation. Volumes of grey, white matter and olfactory bulbs were measured on T1 and T2 magnetic resonance images manually, using FIRST (FMRIB’s integrated Registration and Segmentation Tool) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Memory, executive functions, attention, intelligence and olfaction were assessed.
Mean volumes of left hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and nucleus accumbens were smaller in the ALL group. VBM analysis revealed significantly smaller volumes of the left calcarine gyrus, both lingual gyri and the left precuneus. DTI data analysis provided no evidence for white matter pathology. Lower scores in hippocampus-dependent memory were measured in ALL-subjects, while lower figural memory correlated with smaller hippocampal volumes.
Findings demonstrate that childhood ALL, treated with chemotherapy, is associated with smaller grey matter volumes of neocortical and subcortical grey matter and lower hippocampal memory performance in adolescence and adulthood.
PMCID: PMC3827075  PMID: 24265700
17.  Longitudinal Changes in the Corpus Callosum following Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury 
Developmental Neuroscience  2010;32(5-6):361-373.
Atrophy of the corpus callosum (CC) is a documented consequence of moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), which has been expressed as volume loss using quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Other advanced imaging modalities such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) have also detected white matter microstructural alteration following TBI in the CC. The manner and degree to which macrostructural changes such as volume and microstructural changes develop over time following pediatric TBI, and their relation to a measure of processing speed is the focus of this longitudinal investigation. As such, DTI and volumetric changes in the CC in participants with TBI and a comparison group at approximately 3 and 18 months after injury as well as their relation to processing speed were determined.
Forty-eight children and adolescents aged 7–17 years who sustained either complicated mild or moderate-to-severe TBI (n = 23) or orthopedic injury (OI; n = 25) were studied. The participants underwent brain MRI and were administered the Eriksen flanker task at both time points.
At 3 months after injury, there were significant group differences in DTI metrics in the total CC and its subregions (genu/anterior, body/central and splenium/posterior), with the TBI group demonstrating significantly lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and a higher apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in comparison to the OI group. These group differences were also present at 18 months after injury in all CC subregions, with lower FA and a higher ADC in the TBI group. In terms of longitudinal changes in DTI, despite the group difference in mean FA, both groups generally demonstrated a modest increase in FA over time though this increase was only significant in the splenium/posterior subregion. Interestingly, the TBI group also generally demonstrated ADC increases from 3 to 18 months though the OI group demonstrated ADC decreases over time. Volumetrically, the group differences at 3 months were marginal for the midanterior and body/central subregions and total CC. However, by 18 months, the TBI group demonstrated a significantly decreased volume in all subregions except the splenium/posterior area relative to the OI group. Unlike the OI group, which showed a significant volume increase in subregions of the CC over time, the TBI group demonstrated a significant and consistent volume decrease. Performance on a measure of processing speed did not differentiate the groups at either visit, and only the OI group showed significantly improved performance over time. Processing speed was related to FA in the splenium/posterior and total CC only in the TBI group on both occasions, with a stronger relation at 18 months.
In response to TBI, macrostructural volume loss in the CC occurred over time; yet, at the microstructural level, DTI demonstrated both indicators of continued maturation and development even in the damaged CC, as well as evidence of potential degenerative change. Unlike volumetrics, which likely reflects the degree of overall neuronal loss and axonal damage, DTI may reflect some aspects of postinjury maturation and adaptation in white matter following TBI. Multimodality imaging studies may be important to further understand the long-term consequences of pediatric TBI.
PMCID: PMC3073757  PMID: 20948181
Cognitive development; Developmental changes; Morphometry; Neurodevelopment; Traumatic brain injury; White matter; Diffusion tensor imaging
18.  MRI investigation of the sensorimotor cortex and the corticospinal tract after acute spinal cord injury: a prospective longitudinal study 
Lancet Neurology  2013;12(9):873-881.
In patients with chronic spinal cord injury, imaging of the spinal cord and brain above the level of the lesion provides evidence of neural degeneration; however, the spatial and temporal patterns of progression and their relation to clinical outcomes are uncertain. New interventions targeting acute spinal cord injury have entered clinical trials but neuroimaging outcomes as responsive markers of treatment have yet to be established. We aimed to use MRI to assess neuronal degeneration above the level of the lesion after acute spinal cord injury.
In our prospective longitudinal study, we enrolled patients with acute traumatic spinal cord injury and healthy controls. We assessed patients clinically and by MRI at baseline, 2 months, 6 months, and 12 months, and controls by MRI at the same timepoints. We assessed atrophy in white matter in the cranial corticospinal tracts and grey matter in sensorimotor cortices by tensor-based analyses of T1-weighted MRI data. We used cross-sectional spinal cord area measurements to assess atrophy at cervical level C2/C3. We used myelin-sensitive magnetisation transfer (MT) and longitudinal relaxation rate (R1) maps to assess microstructural changes associated with myelin. We also assessed associations between MRI parameters and clinical improvement. All analyses of brain scans done with statistical parametric mapping were corrected for family-wise error.
Between Sept 17, 2010, and Dec 31, 2012, we recruited 13 patients and 18 controls. In the 12 months from baseline, patients recovered by a mean of 5·27 points per log month (95% CI 1·91–8·63) on the international standards for the neurological classification of spinal cord injury (ISNCSCI) motor score (p=0·002) and by 10·93 points per log month (6·20–15·66) on the spinal cord independence measure (SCIM) score (p<0·0001). Compared with controls, patients showed a rapid decline in cross-sectional spinal cord area (patients declined by 0·46 mm per month compared with a stable cord area in controls; p<0·0001). Patients had faster rates than controls of volume decline of white matter in the cranial corticospinal tracts at the level of the internal capsule (right Z score 5·21, p=0·0081; left Z score 4·12, p=0·0004) and right cerebral peduncle (Z score 3·89, p=0·0302) and of grey matter in the left primary motor cortex (Z score 4·23, p=0·041). Volume changes were paralleled by significant reductions of MT and R1 in the same areas and beyond. Improvements in SCIM scores at 12 months were associated with a reduced loss in cross-sectional spinal cord area over 12 months (Pearson's correlation 0·77, p=0·004) and reduced white matter volume of the corticospinal tracts at the level of the right internal capsule (Z score 4·30, p=0·0021), the left internal capsule (Z score 4·27, p=0·0278), and left cerebral peduncle (Z score 4·05, p=0·0316). Improvements in ISNCSCI motor scores were associated with less white matter volume change encompassing the corticospinal tract at the level of the right internal capsule (Z score 4·01, p<0·0001).
Extensive upstream atrophic and microstructural changes of corticospinal axons and sensorimotor cortical areas occur in the first months after spinal cord injury, with faster degenerative changes relating to poorer recovery. Structural volumetric and microstructural MRI protocols remote from the site of spinal cord injury could serve as neuroimaging biomarkers in acute spinal cord injury.
SRH Holding, Swiss National Science Foundation, Clinical Research Priority Program “NeuroRehab” University of Zurich, Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC3744750  PMID: 23827394
19.  White matter alterations in antipsychotic- and mood stabilizer-naïve individuals with bipolar II/NOS disorder☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2013;3:271-278.
Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) have been inconsistent in demonstrating impairments in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) structures in bipolar disorder (BD). This may be a consequence of significant confounding effects of medication, illness history and selection of controls in existing studies. Study of bipolar II or not-otherwise-specified (BD II/NOS) disorder provides a solution to these confounds and a bridge to unipolar cases across the affective spectrum.
Thirty-eight euthymic, antipsychotic- and mood stabilizer-naïve young adults (mean age = 20.9 years) with BD II/NOS and 37 age-, cognitive ability- and gender-matched healthy controls (HCs) underwent MRI. Voxel-wise and regional gray matter volume comparisons were conducted using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) were used to assess whole-brain WM, as indexed using fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), parallel and perpendicular diffusion values. No between-group differences were observed for whole-brain VBM comparisons. By contrast, in comparison to HCs, participants with BD II/NOS had significant widespread reductions in FA and increased MD and perpendicular diffusion values in virtually all the major cortical white matter tracts.
These data suggest pathophysiological involvement of WM microstructures – but not GM macrostructures – in high functioning BD II/NOS patients at an early age and before significant clinical adversity has been recorded. We propose that white matter development is a valid candidate target for understanding genetic and environmental antecedents to bipolar disorder and mood disorder more generally.
•Antipsychotic- and mood stabilizer-naïve bipolar II/NOS participants underwent MRI.•Data analysis included tract-based spatial statistics and voxel-based morphometry.•Bipolar II/NOS participants had widespread reductions in fractional anisotropy.•We report alterations in white – but not gray – matter structures in bipolar II/NOS.
PMCID: PMC3814955  PMID: 24273712
Bipolar II disorder; Bipolar disorder NOS; Diffusion tensor imaging; Voxel-based morphometry; Mood stabilizers; Antipsychotics
20.  Cuneus and fusiform cortices thickness is reduced in trigeminal neuralgia 
Chronic pain disorders are presumed to induce changes in brain grey and white matters. Few studies have focused CNS alterations in trigeminal neuralgia (TN).
The aim of this study was to explore changes in white matter microstructure in TN subjects using diffusion tensor images (DTI) with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS); and cortical thickness changes with surface based morphometry. Twenty-four patients with classical TN (37-67 y-o) and 24 healthy controls, matched for age and sex, were included in the study.
Comparing patients with controls, no diffusivity abnormalities of brain white matter were detected. However, a significant reduction in cortical thickness was observed at the left cuneus and left fusiform cortex in the patients group. The thickness of the fusiform cortex correlated negatively with the carbamazepine dose (p = 0.023).
Since the cuneus and the fusiform gyrus have been related to the multisensory integration area and cognitive processing, as well as the retrieval of shock perception conveyed by Aδ fibers, our results support the role of these areas in TN pathogenesis. Whether such changes occurs as an epiphenomenon secondary to daily stimulation or represent a structural predisposition to TN in the light of peripheral vascular compression is a matter of future studies.
PMCID: PMC3997919  PMID: 24661349
Trigeminal neuralgia; MRI; Brain; Cortical thickness analysis; White matter; Diffusion tensor imaging
21.  Age-related abnormalities in white matter microstructure in autism spectrum disorders 
Brain research  2012;1479:1-16.
Abnormalities in structural and functional connectivity have been reported in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) across a wide age range. However, developmental changes in white matter microstructure are poorly understood. We used a cross-sectional design to determine whether white matter abnormalities measured using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) were present in adolescents and adults with ASD and whether age-related changes in white matter microstructure differed between ASD and typically developing (TD) individuals. Participants included 28 individuals with ASD and 33 TD controls matched on age and IQ and assessed at one time point. Widespread decreased fractional anisotropy (FA), and increased radial diffusivity (RaD) and mean diffusivity (MD) were observed in the ASD group compared to the TD group. In addition, significant group-by-age interactions were also observed in FA, RaD, and MD in all major tracts except the brain stem, indicating that age-related changes in white matter microstructure differed between the groups. We propose that white matter microstructural changes in ASD may reflect myelination and/or other structural differences including differences in axonal density/arborization. In addition, we suggest that white matter microstuctural impairments may be normalizing during young adulthood in ASD. Future longitudinal studies that include a wider range of ages and more extensive clinical characterization will be critical for further uncovering the neurodevelopmental processes unfolding during this dynamic time in development.
PMCID: PMC3513400  PMID: 22902768
autism; white matter; DTI; age; interaction
22.  Widespread grey matter pathology dominates the longitudinal cerebral MRI and clinical landscape of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain  2014;137(9):2546-2555.
Menke/Koerner et al. use structural MRI to explore the extent of longitudinal changes in cerebral pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and their relationship to clinical features. A characteristic white matter tract pathological signature is seen cross-sectionally, while cortical involvement dominates longitudinally. This has implications for the development of biomarkers for diagnosis versus therapeutic monitoring.
Diagnosis, stratification and monitoring of disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis currently rely on clinical history and examination. The phenotypic heterogeneity of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, including extramotor cognitive impairments is now well recognized. Candidate biomarkers have shown variable sensitivity and specificity, and studies have been mainly undertaken only cross-sectionally. Sixty patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (without a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia) underwent baseline multimodal magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Grey matter pathology was identified through analysis of T1-weighted images using voxel-based morphometry. White matter pathology was assessed using tract-based spatial statistics analysis of indices derived from diffusion tensor imaging. Cross-sectional analyses included group comparison with a group of healthy controls (n = 36) and correlations with clinical features, including regional disability, clinical upper motor neuron signs and cognitive impairment. Patients were offered 6-monthly follow-up MRI, and the last available scan was used for a separate longitudinal analysis (n = 27). In cross-sectional study, the core signature of white matter pathology was confirmed within the corticospinal tract and callosal body, and linked strongly to clinical upper motor neuron burden, but also to limb disability subscore and progression rate. Localized grey matter abnormalities were detected in a topographically appropriate region of the left motor cortex in relation to bulbar disability, and in Broca’s area and its homologue in relation to verbal fluency. Longitudinal analysis revealed progressive and widespread changes in the grey matter, notably including the basal ganglia. In contrast there was limited white matter pathology progression, in keeping with a previously unrecognized limited change in individual clinical upper motor neuron scores, despite advancing disability. Although a consistent core white matter pathology was found cross-sectionally, grey matter pathology was dominant longitudinally, and included progression in clinically silent areas such as the basal ganglia, believed to reflect their wider cortical connectivity. Such changes were significant across a range of apparently sporadic patients rather than being a genotype-specific effect. It is also suggested that the upper motor neuron lesion in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be relatively constant during the established symptomatic period. These findings have implications for the development of effective diagnostic versus therapeutic monitoring magnetic resonance imaging biomarkers. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be characterized initially by a predominantly white matter tract pathological signature, evolving as a widespread cortical network degeneration.
PMCID: PMC4132644  PMID: 24951638
motor neuron disease; biomarker; magnetic resonance imaging; voxel-based morphometry; diffusion tensor imaging
23.  White Matter Microstructure Alterations: A Study of Alcoholics with and without Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80952.
Many brain imaging studies have demonstrated reductions in gray and white matter volumes in alcoholism, with fewer investigators using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine the integrity of white matter pathways. Among various medical conditions, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two comorbid diseases that have similar degenerative effects on the white matter integrity. Therefore, understanding and differentiating these effects would be very important in characterizing alcoholism and PTSD. Alcoholics are known to have neurocognitive deficits in decision-making, particularly in decisions related to emotionally-motivated behavior, while individuals with PTSD have deficits in emotional regulation and enhanced fear response. It is widely believed that these types of abnormalities in both alcoholism and PTSD are related to fronto-limbic dysfunction. In addition, previous studies have shown cortico-limbic fiber degradation through fiber tracking in alcoholism. DTI was used to measure white matter fractional anisotropy (FA), which provides information about tissue microstructure, possibly indicating white matter integrity. We quantitatively investigated the microstructure of white matter through whole brain DTI analysis in healthy volunteers (HV) and alcohol dependent subjects without PTSD (ALC) and with PTSD (ALC+PTSD). These data show significant differences in FA between alcoholics and non-alcoholic HVs, with no significant differences in FA between ALC and ALC+PTSD in any white matter structure. We performed a post-hoc region of interest analysis that allowed us to incorporate multiple covariates into the analysis and found similar results. HV had higher FA in several areas implicated in the reward circuit, emotion, and executive functioning, suggesting that there may be microstructural abnormalities in white matter pathways that contribute to neurocognitive and executive functioning deficits observed in alcoholics. Furthermore, our data do not reveal any differences between ALC and ALC+PTSD, suggesting that the effect of alcohol on white matter microstructure may be more significant than any effect caused by PTSD.
PMCID: PMC3832443  PMID: 24260518
24.  Altered brain morphometry in carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with median nerve pathology☆☆☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2013;2:313-319.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common median nerve entrapment neuropathy characterized by pain, paresthesias, diminished peripheral nerve conduction velocity (NCV) and maladaptive functional brain neuroplasticity. We evaluated structural reorganization in brain gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) and whether such plasticity is linked to altered median nerve function in CTS.
We performed NCV testing, T1-weighted structural MRI, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in 28 CTS and 28 age-matched healthy controls (HC). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) contrasted regional GM volume for CTS versus HC. Significant clusters were correlated with clinical metrics and served as seeds to define associated WM tracts using DTI data and probabilistic tractography. Within these WM tracts, fractional anisotropy (FA), axial (AD) and radial (RD) diffusivity were evaluated for group differences and correlations with clinical metrics.
For CTS subjects, GM volume was significantly reduced in contralesional S1 (hand-area), pulvinar and frontal pole. GM volume in contralesional S1 correlated with median NCV. NCV was also correlated with RD and was negatively correlated with FA within U-fiber cortico-cortical association tracts identified from the contralesional S1 VBM seed.
Our study identified clear morphometric changes in the CTS brain. This central morphometric change is likely secondary to peripheral nerve pathology and altered somatosensory afference. Enhanced axonal coherence and myelination within cortico-cortical tracts connecting primary somatosensory and motor areas may accompany peripheral nerve deafferentation. As structural plasticity was correlated with NCV and not symptomatology, the former may be a better determinant of appropriate clinical intervention for CTS, including surgery.
► CTS demonstrated reduced GM volume in S1, pulvinar, and frontal pole. ► GM volume in S1 was significantly correlated with median nerve conduction velocity. ► Median nerve velocity was linked to WM microstructure in tracts connected to S1.
PMCID: PMC3689649  PMID: 23799199
CTS, carpal tunnel syndrome; NCV, nerve conduction velocity; GM, gray matter; WM, white matter; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging; VBM, voxel-based morphometry; FA, fractional anisotropy; AD, axial diffusivity; RD, radial diffusivity; S1, primary somatosensory cortex; M1, primary motor cortex; Nerve conduction velocity (NCV); Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Voxel-based morphometry (VBM); Fractional anisotropy (FA); Axial diffusivity (AD); Radial diffusivity (RD)
25.  Sex differences in the IQ-white matter microstructure relationship: A DTI study 
Brain and Cognition  2014;91:71-78.
Sex differences in the relationship between general intelligence and brain structure are a topic of increasing research interest. Early studies focused mainly on gray and white matter differences using voxel-based morphometry, while more recent studies investigated neural fiber tracts using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to analyze the white matter microstructure. In this study we used tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) on DTI to test how intelligence is associated with brain diffusion indices and to see whether this relationship differs between men and women. 63 Men and women divided into groups of lower and higher intelligence were selected. Whole-brain DTI scans were analyzed using TBSS calculating maps of fractional anisotropy (FA), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity (AD). The results reveal that the white matter microstructure differs between individuals as a function of intelligence and sex. In men, higher intelligence was related to higher FA and lower RD in the corpus callosum. In women, in contrast, intelligence was not related to the white matter microstructure. The higher values of FA and lower values of RD suggest that intelligence is associated with higher myelination and/or a higher number of axons particularly in men. This microstructural difference in the corpus callosum may increase cognitive functioning by reducing inter-hemispheric transfer time and thus account for more efficient brain functioning in men.
PMCID: PMC4245721  PMID: 25238623
Corpus callosum; DTI; Intelligence; Sex; TBSS

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