While the hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is corticospinal tract in combination with lower motor neuron degeneration, the clinical involvement of both compartments is characteristically variable and the site of onset debated. We sought to establish whether there is a consistent signature of cerebral white matter abnormalities in heterogeneous ALS cases.
In this observational study, diffusion tensor imaging was applied in a whole-brain analysis of 24 heterogeneous patients with ALS and well-matched healthy controls. Tract-based spatial statistics were used, with optimized voxel-based morphometry of T1 images to determine any associated gray matter involvement.
A consistent reduction in fractional anisotropy was demonstrated in the corpus callosum of the ALS group, extending rostrally and bilaterally to the region of the primary motor cortices, independent of the degree of clinical upper motor neuron involvement. Matched regional radial diffusivity increase supported the concept of anterograde degeneration of callosal fibers observed pathologically. Gray matter reductions were observed bilaterally in primary motor and supplementary motor regions, and also in the anterior cingulate and temporal lobe regions. A post hoc group comparison model incorporating significant values for fractional anisotropy, radial diffusivity, and gray matter was 92% sensitive, 88% specific, with an accuracy of 90%.
Callosal involvement is a consistent feature of ALS, independent of clinical upper motor neuron involvement, and may reflect independent bilateral cortical involvement or interhemispheric spread of pathology. The predominantly rostral corticospinal tract involvement further supports the concept of independent cortical degeneration even in those patients with ALS with predominantly lower motor neuron involvement clinically.
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= revised Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale;
= corpus callosum;
= corticospinal tract;
= disease duration;
= diffusion tensor imaging;
= fractional anisotropy;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= gray matter;
= lower motor neuron;
= mean diffusivity;
= primary lateral sclerosis;
= progressive muscular atrophy;
= radial diffusivity;
= upper motor neuron;
= white matter.
Magnetic resonance imaging measures have been proposed as objective markers to study upper motor neuron loss in motor neuron disorders. Cross-sectional studies have identified imaging differences between groups of healthy controls and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) that correlate with disease severity, but it is not known whether imaging measures change as disease progresses. Additionally, whether imaging measures change in a similar fashion with disease progression in PLS and ALS is unclear. To address these questions, clinical and imaging evaluations were first carried out in a prospective cross-sectional study of 23 ALS and 22 PLS patients with similar motor impairment and 19 age-matched healthy controls. Clinical evaluations consisted of a neurological examination, the ALS Functional rating scale-revised, and measures of finger tapping, gait, and timed speech. Age and ALSFRS score were not different, but PLS patients had longer duration of symptoms. Imaging measures examined were cortical thickness, regional brain volumes, and diffusion tensor imaging of the corticospinal tract and callosum. Imaging measures that differed from controls in a cross-sectional vertex-wise analysis were used as regions of interest for longitudinal analysis, which was carried out in 9 of the ALS patients (interval 1.26 ± 0.72 years) and 12 PLS patients (interval 2.08 ± 0.93 years). In the cross-sectional study both groups had areas of cortical thinning, which was more extensive in motor regions in PLS patients. At follow-up, clinical measures declined more in ALS than PLS patients. Cortical thinning and grey matter volume loss of the precentral gyri progressed over the follow-up interval. Fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tracts remained stable, but the cross-sectional area declined in ALS patients. Changes in clinical measures correlated with changes in precentral cortical thickness and grey matter volume. The rate of cortical thinning was greater in ALS patients with shorter disease durations, suggesting that thickness decreases in a non-linear fashion. Thus, cortical thickness changes are a potential imaging marker for disease progression in individual patients, but the magnitude of change likely depends on disease duration and progression rate. Differences between PLS and ALS patients in the magnitude of thinning in cross-sectional studies are likely to reflect longer disease duration. We conclude that there is an evolution of structural imaging changes with disease progression in motor neuron disorders. Some changes, such as diffusion properties of the corticospinal tract, occur early while cortical thinning and volume loss occur later.
► In a cross-sectional study, ALS and PLS patients had thinning of the motor cortex compared to age-matched controls ► Progressive thinning and atrophy of the precentral gyrus were correlated with clinical progression over a 1- or 2-year longitudinal follow-up ► The rate of cortical thinning was faster in ALS patients with a shorter disease duration ► Fractional anisotropy of corticospinal tracts, though reduced at baseline in ALS and PLS patients remained stable over longitudinal follow-up ► Imaging changes evolve with disease progression in motor neuron disorders ► Changes in white matter diffusion properties occur early, while cortical thinning and atrophy occur later and over a longer time frame
ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALSFRS-R, ALS functional rating scale, revised; CC, corpus callosum; CST, corticospinal tract; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging; FA, fractional anisotropy; MD, mean diffusivity; MRI, magnetic resonance imaging; PLS, primary lateral sclerosis; UMN, upper motor neuron; Cortical thickness; Longitudinal studies; Motor neuron disease; Diffusion tensor imaging; FreeSurfer
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.
motor neuron disease; biomarker; magnetic resonance imaging; voxel-based morphometry; diffusion tensor imaging
Evaluating the integrity of white matter tracts with diffusion tensor imaging may differentiate primary lateral sclerosis from progressive supranuclear palsy.
Thirty-three prospectively recruited subjects had standardized evaluations and diffusion tensor imaging: 3 with primary lateral sclerosis who presented with features suggestive of progressive supranuclear palsy, 10 with probable or definite progressive supranuclear palsy, and 20 matched controls. We compared fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tract, superior cerebellar peduncle and body of the corpus callosum between groups.
Both the primary lateral sclerosis and progressive supranuclear palsy subjects showed reduced fractional anisotropy in superior cerebellar peduncles and body of the corpus callosum compared to controls, but only primary lateral sclerosis subjects showed reductions in the corticospinal tracts. A ratio of corticospinal tract/superior cerebellar peduncle best distinguished the disorders (p<0.02).
The corticospinal tract/superior cerebellar peduncle ratio is a marker to differentiate primary lateral sclerosis from progressive supranuclear palsy.
Progressive supranuclear palsy; primary lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; diffusion tensor imaging
The homogeneous genotype and stereotyped phenotype of a unique familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (patients homozygous for aspartate-to-alanine mutations in codon 90 (homD90A) superoxide dismutase 1) provides an ideal model for studying genotype/phenotype interactions and pathological features compared with heterogeneous apparently sporadic ALS. The authors aimed to use diffusion tensor tractography to quantify and compare changes in the intracerebral corticospinal tracts of patients with both forms of ALS, building on previous work using whole-brain voxelwise group analysis.
21 sporadic ALS patients, seven homD90A patients and 20 healthy controls underwent 1.5 T diffusion tensor MRI. Patients were assessed using ‘upper motor neuron burden,’ El Escorial and ALSFR-R scales. The intracranial corticospinal tract was assessed using diffusion tensor tractography measures of fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity, and radial and axial diffusivity obtained from its entire length.
Corticospinal tract FA was reduced in sporadic ALS patients compared with both homD90A ALS patients and controls. The diffusion measures in sporadic ALS patients were consistent with anterograde (Wallerian) degeneration of the corticospinal tracts. In sporadic ALS, corticospinal tract FA was related to clinical measures. Despite a similar degree of clinical upper motor neuron dysfunction and disability in homD90A ALS patients compared with sporadic ALS, there were no abnormalities in corticospinal tract diffusion measures compared with controls.
Diffusion tensor tractography has shown axonal degeneration within the intracerebral portion of the corticospinal tract in sporadic ALS patients, but not those with a homogeneous form of familial ALS. This suggests significant genotypic influences on the phenotype of ALS and may provide clues to slower progression of disease in homD90A patients.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; diffusion tensor tractography; corticospinal tract; fractional anisotropy; mean diffusivityALSimage analysisMRI
The objective was to test three motor system-specific hypotheses in multiple sclerosis patients: (i) corticospinal tract and primary motor cortex imaging measures differ between multiple sclerosis patients and controls; (ii) in patients, these measures correlate with disability; (iii) in patients, corticospinal tract measures correlate with measures of the ipsilateral primary motor cortex.
Eleven multiple sclerosis patients with a history of hemiparesis attributable to a lesion within the contralateral corticospinal tract, and 12 controls were studied. We used two advanced imaging techniques: (i) diffusion-based probabilistic tractography, to obtain connectivity and fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tract; and (ii) FreeSurfer, to measure volume, thickness, surface area, and curvature of precentral and paracentral cortices. Differences in these measures between patients and controls, and relationships between each other and to clinical scores, were investigated.
Patients showed lower corticospinal tract fractional anisotropy and smaller volume and surface area of the precentral gyrus than controls. In patients, corticospinal tract connectivity and paracentral cortical volume, surface area, and curvature were lower with increasing disability; lower connectivity of the affected corticospinal tract was associated with greater surface area of the ipsilateral paracentral cortex.
Corticospinal tract connectivity and new measures of the primary motor cortex, such as surface area and curvature, reflect the underlying white and grey matter damage that contributes to disability. The correlation between lower connectivity of the affected corticospinal tract and greater surface area of the ipsilateral paracentral cortex suggests the possibility of cortical adaptation. Combining tractography and cortical measures is a useful approach in testing hypotheses which are specific to clinically relevant functional systems in multiple sclerosis, and can be applied to other neurological diseases.
atrophy; MRI; relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis
The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that magnetization transfer ratios (MTR) are decreased in the corticospinal tract of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); to determine if T2 is increased in corticospinal tract or reduced in motor cortex in ALS; to determine if corticospinal tract MTR correlates with a clinical measure of motor neuron function in ALS. Ten ALS patients and 17 age-matched controls were studied. Double spin echo MRI and 3D gradient echo MRI with and without off-resonance saturation were acquired on each subject. 3D data sets were coregistered and resliced to match the spin echo data set. MTR was calculated for corticospinal and non-corticospinal tract white matter. T2 was calculated for corticospinal and non-corticospinal tract white matter, motor cortex and non-motor cortex. MTR was reduced by 2.6% (p < .02) in corticospinal, but not in non-corticospinal, tract white matter in ALS. There was no difference in T2 in any brain region. The correlation between a clinical measure of motor neuron function and corticospinal tract MTR was statistically significant. These findings are consistent with the known pathology in ALS and suggest that MTR is more sensitive than T2 for detecting involvement of the corticospinal tract. Quantitative MTR of the corticospinal tract may be a useful, objective marker of upper motor neuron pathology in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Magnetization transfer ratio; T2 relaxation; Corticospinal tract; Motor cortex
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, caused by progressive loss of motor neurons. Changes are widespread in the subcortical white matter in ALS. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) detects pathological changes in white matter fibres in vivo, based on alterations in the degree (diffusivity, ADC) and directedness (fractional anisotropy, FA) of proton movement.
24 patients with ALS and 24 age-matched controls received 1.5T DTI. FA and ADC were analyzed using statistical parametric mapping. In 15 of the 24 ALS patients, a second DTI was obtained after 6 months.
Decreased FA in the corticospinal tract (CST) and frontal areas confirm existing results. With a direct comparison of baseline and follow-up dataset, the progression of upper motor neuron degeneration, reflected in FA decrease, could be captured along the CST and in frontal areas. The involvement of cerebellum in the pathology of ALS, as suspected from functional MRI studies, could be confirmed by a reduced FA (culmen, declive). These structural changes correlated well with disease duration, ALSFRS-R, and physical and executive functions.
DTI detects changes that are regarded as prominent features of ALS and thus, shows promise in its function as a biomarker. Using the technique herein, we could demonstrate DTI changes at follow-up which correlated well with clinical progression.
Cerebellum; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Diffusion tensor imaging; Follow-up
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease with severe cervical cord damage due to degeneration of the corticospinal tracts and loss of lower motor neurones. Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT MRI) allows the measurement of quantities reflecting the size (such as mean diffusivity) and orientation (such as fractional anisotropy) of water‐filled spaces in biological tissues.
Mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy histograms from the cervical cord of patients with ALS were obtained to: (1) quantify the extent of tissue damage in this critical central nervous system region; and (2) investigate the magnitude of the correlation of cervical cord DT MRI metrics with patients' disability and tissue damage along the brain portion of the corticospinal tracts. Cervical cord and brain DT MRI scans were obtained from 28 patients with ALS and 20 age‐matched and sex‐matched controls. Cord mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy histograms were produced and the cord cross‐sectional area was measured. Average mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy along the brain portion of the corticospinal tracts were also measured.
Compared with controls, patients with ALS had significantly lower mean fractional anisotropy (p = 0.002) and cord cross‐sectional area (p<0.001). Mean diffusivity histogram‐derived metrics did not differ between the two groups. A strong correlation was found between mean cord fractional anisotropy and the ALS Functional Rating Score (r = 0.74, p<0.001). Mean cord and brain fractional anisotropy values correlated moderately (r = 0.37, p = 0.05).
Cervical cord DT MRI in patients with ALS allows the extent of cord damage to be graded. The conventional and DT MRI changes found are compatible with the presence of neuroaxonal loss and reactive gliosis, with a heterogeneous distribution of the pathological process between the brain and the cord. The correlation found between cord fractional anisotropy and disability suggests that DT MRI may be a useful adjunctive tool to monitor the evolution of ALS.
Quantitative tractography may provide insights into regional heterogeneity of changes in white matter structure in normal ageing. Here we examine how brain atrophy and white matter lesions affect correlations between tract shape, tract integrity and age in a range of frontal and non-frontal tracts in 90 non-demented subjects aged over 65 years using an enhanced version of probabilistic neighbourhood tractography. This novel method for automatic single seed point placement employs unsupervised learning and streamline selection to provide reliable and accurate tract segmentation, whilst also indicating how the shape of an individual tract compares to that of a predefined reference tract. There were significant negative correlations between tract shape similarity to reference tracts derived from a young brain white matter atlas and age in genu and splenium of corpus callosum. Controlling for intracranial and lateral ventricle volume, the latter of which increased significantly with age, attenuated these correlations by 40 and 84 % respectively, indicating that this age-related change in callosal tract topology is significantly mediated by global atrophy and ventricular enlargement. In accordance with the ‘frontal ageing’ hypothesis, there was a significant positive correlation between mean diffusivity (〈D〉) and age, and a significant negative correlation between fractional anisotropy (FA) and age in corpus callosum genu; correlations not seen in splenium. Significant positive correlations were also observed between 〈D〉 and age in bilateral cingulum cingulate gyri, uncinate fasciculi and right corticospinal tract. This pattern of correlations was not, however, reproduced when those subjects with significant white matter lesion load were analyzed separately from those without. These data therefore suggest that brain atrophy and white matter lesions play a significant role in driving regional patterns of age-related changes in white matter tract shape and integrity.
Ageing; white matter; magnetic resonance imaging; water diffusion tensor; tractography
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons. Advanced MRI techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging have shown great potential in capturing a common white matter pathology. However the sensitivity is variable and diffusion tensor imaging is not yet applicable to the routine clinical environment. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) has revealed grey matter changes in ALS, but the bias-reducing algorithms inherent to traditional VBM are not optimized for the assessment of the white matter changes. We have developed a novel approach to white matter analysis, namely voxel-based intensitometry (VBI). High resolution T1-weighted MRI was acquired at 1.5 Tesla in 30 ALS patients and 37 age-matched healthy controls. VBI analysis at the group level revealed widespread white matter intensity increases in the corticospinal tracts, corpus callosum, sub-central, frontal and occipital white matter tracts and cerebellum. VBI results correlated with disease severity (ALSFRS-R) and patterns of cerebral involvement differed between bulbar- and limb-onset. VBI would be easily translatable to the routine clinical environment, and once optimized for individual analysis offers significant biomarker potential in ALS.
A relevant fraction of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) exhibit a fronto-temporal pattern of cognitive and behavioural disturbances with pronounced deficits in executive functioning and cognitive control of behaviour. Structural imaging shows a decline in fronto-temporal brain areas, but most brain imaging studies did not evaluate cognitive status. We investigated microstructural white matter changes underlying cognitive impairment using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a large cohort of ALS patients.
We assessed 72 non-demented ALS patients and 65 matched healthy control subjects using a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and DTI. We compared DTI measures of fiber tract integrity using tract-based spatial statistics among ALS patients with and without cognitive impairment and healthy controls. Neuropsychological performance and behavioural measures were correlated with DTI measures.
Patients without cognitive impairment demonstrated white matter changes predominantly in motor tracts, including the corticospinal tract and the body of corpus callosum. Those with impairments (ca. 30%) additionally presented significant white matter alterations in extra-motor regions, particularly the frontal lobe. Executive and memory performance and behavioural measures were correlated with fiber tract integrity in large association tracts.
In non-demented cognitively impaired ALS patients, white matter changes measured by DTI are related to disturbances of executive and memory functions, including prefrontal and temporal regions. In a group comparison, DTI is able to observe differences between cognitively unimpaired and impaired ALS patients.
Executive dysfunction occurs in many patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but it has not been well studied in primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). The aims of this study were to (1) compare cognitive function in PLS to that in ALS patients, (2) explore the relationship between performance on specific cognitive tests and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics of white matter tracts and gray matter volumes, and (3) compare DTI metrics in patients with and without cognitive and behavioral changes.
The Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale (DRS-2), and other behavior and mood scales were administered to 25 ALS patients and 25 PLS patients. Seventeen of the PLS patients, 13 of the ALS patients, and 17 healthy controls underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and DTI. Atlas-based analysis using MRI Studio software was used to measure fractional anisotropy, and axial and radial diffusivity of selected white matter tracts. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess gray matter volumes. The relationship between diffusion properties of selected association and commissural white matter and performance on executive function and memory tests was explored using a linear regression model.
More ALS than PLS patients had abnormal scores on the DRS-2. DRS-2 and D-KEFS scores were related to DTI metrics in several long association tracts and the callosum. Reduced gray matter volumes in motor and perirolandic areas were not associated with cognitive scores.
The changes in diffusion metrics of white matter long association tracts suggest that the loss of integrity of the networks connecting fronto-temporal areas to parietal and occipital areas contributes to cognitive impairment.
Motor neuron disease; Executive function; Diffusion tensor imaging
Background and Purpose
Involvement of the corpus callosum (CC) is reported to be a consistent feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We examined the CC pathology using diffusion tensor tractography analysis to identify precisely which fiber bundles are involved in ALS.
Diffusion tensor imaging was performed in 14 sporadic ALS patients and 16 age-matched healthy controls. Whole brain tractography was performed using the multiple-region of interest (ROI) approach, and CC fiber bundles were extracted in two ways based on functional and structural relevance: (i) cortical ROI selection based on Brodmann areas (BAs), and (ii) the sulcal-gyral pattern of cortical gray matter using FreeSurfer software, respectively.
The mean fractional anisotropy (FA) values of the CC fibers interconnecting the primary motor (BA4), supplementary motor (BA6), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA9/46) were significantly lower in ALS patients than in controls, whereas those of the primary sensory cortex (BA1, BA2, BA3), Broca's area (BA44/45), and the orbitofrontal cortex (BA11/47) did not differ significantly between the two groups. The FreeSurfer ROI approach revealed a very similar pattern of abnormalities. In addition, a significant correlation was found between the mean FA value of the CC fibers interconnecting the primary motor area and disease severity, as assessed using the revised Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale, and the clinical extent of upper motor neuron signs.
Our findings suggest that there is some degree of selectivity or a gradient in the CC pathology in ALS. The CC fibers interconnecting the primary motor and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices may be preferentially involved in ALS.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; corpus callosum; diffusion tensor imaging; tractography; cortical parcellation
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients with predominant upper motor neuron (UMN) signs occasionally have hyperintensity of corticospinal tract (CST) on T2- and proton-density-(PD-) weighted brain images. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to assess whether diffusion parameters along intracranial CST differ in presence or absence of hyperintensity and correspond to UMN dysfunction.
DTI brain scans were acquired in 47 UMN-predominant ALS patients with (n = 21) or without (n = 26) CST hyperintensity and in 10 control subjects. Fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) were measured in four regions of interests (ROIs) along CST. Abnormalities (P < 0.05) were observed in FA, AD, or RD in CST primarily at internal capsule (IC) level in ALS patients, especially those with CST hyperintensity. Clinical measures corresponded well with DTI changes at IC level. The IC abnormalities suggest a prominent axonopathy in UMN-predominant ALS and that tissue changes underlying CST hyperintensity have specific DTI changes, suggestive of unique axonal pathology.
The integrity of white matter, as measured in vivo with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), is disrupted in normal aging. A current consensus is that in adults advancing age affects anterior brain regions disproportionately more than posterior regions; however, the mainstay of studies supporting this anterior-posterior gradient is based primarily on measures of the corpus callosum. Using our quantitative fiber tracking approach, we assessed fiber tract integrity of samples of major white matter cortical, subcortical, interhemispheric, and cerebellar systems (11 bilateral and 2 callosal) on DTI data collected at 1.5 T magnet strength. Participants were 55 men (age 20-78 years) and 65 women (age 28-81 years), deemed healthy and cognitively intact following interview and behavioral testing. Fiber integrity was measured as orientational diffusion coherence (fractional anisotropy, FA) and magnitude of diffusion, which was quantified separately for longitudinal diffusivity (λL), an index of axonal length or number, and transverse diffusivity (λT), an index of myelin integrity. Aging effects were more evident in diffusivity than FA measures. Men and women, examined separately, showed similar age-related increases in longitudinal and transverse diffusivity in fibers of the internal and external capsules bilaterally and the fornix. FA was lower and diffusivity higher in anterior than posterior fibers of regional paired comparisons (genu versus splenium and frontal versus occipital forceps). Diffusivity with older age was generally greater or FA lower in the superior than inferior fiber systems (longitudinal fasciculi, cingulate bundles), with little to no evidence for age-related degradation in pontine or cerebellar systems. The most striking sex difference emerged for the corpus callosum, for which men showed significant decline in FA and increase in longitudinal and transverse diffusivity in the genu but not splenium. By contrast, in women the age effect was present in both callosal regions, albeit modestly more so in the genu than splenium. Functional meaningfulness of these age-related differences was supported by significant correlations between DTI signs of white matter degradation and poorer performance on cognitive or motor tests. This survey of multiple fiber systems throughout the brain revealed a differential pattern of age’s effect on regional FA and diffusivity and suggests mechanisms of functional degradation, attributed at least in part to compromised fiber microstructure affecting myelin and axonal morphology.
Brain; Aging; DTI; White matter; Fiber tracking; Diffusion
Normal-appearing white matter has been shown via diffusion tensor imaging to be affected in tuberous sclerosis complex. Under the hypothesis that some systems might be differentially affected, including the visual pathways and systems of social cognition, diffusion properties of various regions of white matter were compared. For 10 patients and 6 age-matched control subjects, 3 T magnetic resonance imaging was assessed using diffusion tensor imaging obtained in 35 directions. Three-dimensional volumes corresponding to the geniculocalcarine tracts were extracted via tractography, and two-dimensional regions of interest were used to sample other regions. Regression analysis indicated lower fractional anisotropy in the splenium of corpus callosum and geniculocalcarine tracts in tuberous sclerosis complex group, as well as lower axial diffusivity in the internal capsule, superior temporal gyrus, and geniculocalcarine tracts. Mean and radial diffusivity of the splenium of corpus callosum were higher in the tuberous sclerosis complex group. The differences in diffusion properties of white matter between tuberous sclerosis complex patients and control subjects suggest disorganized and structurally compromised axons with poor myelination. The visual and social cognition systems appear to be differentially involved, which might in part explain the behavioral and cognitive characteristics of the tuberous sclerosis complex population.
Four subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions have been described (types A–D). Of these four subtypes, motor neuron disease is more commonly associated with type B pathology, but has also been reported with type A pathology. We have noted, however, the unusual occurrence of cases of type C pathology having corticospinal tract degeneration. We aimed to assess the severity of corticospinal tract degeneration in a large cohort of cases with type C (n = 31). Pathological analysis included semi-quantitation of myelin loss of fibres of the corticospinal tract and associated macrophage burden, as well as axonal loss, at the level of the medullary pyramids. We also assessed for motor cortex degeneration and fibre loss of the medial lemniscus/olivocerebellar tract. All cases were subdivided into three groups based on the degree of corticospinal tract degeneration: (i) no corticospinal tract degeneration; (ii) equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration; and (iii) moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration. Clinical, genetic, pathological and imaging comparisons were performed across groups. Eight cases had no corticospinal tract degeneration, and 14 cases had equivocal to mild corticospinal tract degeneration. Nine cases, however, had moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration with myelin and axonal loss. In these nine cases, there was degeneration of the motor cortex without lower motor neuron degeneration or involvement of other brainstem tracts. These cases most commonly presented as semantic dementia, and they had longer disease duration (mean: 15.3 years) compared with the other two groups (10.8 and 9.9 years; P = 0.03). After adjusting for disease duration, severity of corticospinal tract degeneration remained significantly different across groups. Only one case, without corticospinal tract degeneration, was found to have a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. All three groups were associated with anterior temporal lobe atrophy on MRI; however, the cases with moderate to severe corticospinal tract degeneration showed right-sided temporal lobe asymmetry and greater involvement of the right temporal lobe and superior motor cortices than the other groups. In contrast, the cases with no or equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration were more likely to show left-sided temporal lobe asymmetry. For comparison, the corticospinal tract was assessed in 86 type A and B cases, and only two cases showed evidence of corticospinal tract degeneration without lower motor neuron degeneration. These findings confirm that there exists a unique association between frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type C pathology and corticospinal tract degeneration, with this entity showing a predilection to involve the right temporal lobe.
TDP-43 type C; corticospinal tract; MRI; semantic dementia; right temporal lobe
Muscle weakness is an important feature of multiple sclerosis and is responsible for much of the disability associated with that condition. Here, we describe the quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) attributes of the major intracerebral motor pathways – the corticospinal tracts – in multiple sclerosis. To do so, we develop an intuitive method for creating and displaying spatially normalized tract-specific imaging data.
In 75 individuals with multiple sclerosis and 29 healthy controls, the corticospinal tracts were reconstructed from diffusion tensor imaging at 3 Tesla. Multiple MRI indices – T2 relaxation time; fractional anisotropy; mean, longitudinal, and transverse diffusivity; and magnetization transfer ratio – were examined within the reconstructed tracts. Spatially normalized tract profiles were created to compare, across subjects, the variation in MRI index as a function of tract position.
Each index’s tract profile had a characteristic shape. Individual subjects had markedly abnormal tract profiles, particularly at lesion sites. On average, tract profiles were different between patients and controls, particularly in the subcortical white matter and corona radiata, for all indices examined except for fractional anisotropy. Magnetization transfer ratio was further decreased in subjects with secondary progressive disease. Tract asymmetry was increased in multiple sclerosis compared to controls.
Multiparametric MRI allows rapid detection, localization, and characterization of tract-specific abnormalities in multiple sclerosis. Tract profiles bridge the gap between whole-brain imaging of neurological disease and the interrogation of individual, functionally relevant subsystems.
multiple sclerosis; corticospinal tract; pyramidal tract; diffusion tensor imaging; magnetization transfer imaging; tract profiles
The statistical reliability of diffusion property measurements was evaluated in ten healthy subjects using deterministic fiber tracking to localize tracts affected in motor neuron disease: corticospinal tract (CST), uncinate fasciculus (UNC), and the corpus callosum in its entirety (CC), and its genu (GE), motor (CCM), and splenium (SP) fibers separately. Measurements of fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (λ1), transverse diffusivity (λ⊥), and volume of voxels containing fibers (VV) were obtained within each tract. To assess intra-rater and inter-rater reliability, two raters carried out fiber tracking five times on each scan. Scan-rescan and longitudinal reliability were assessed in a subset of four subjects who had six scans, with two sets of three scans separated by one year. The statistical reliability of repeated measurements was evaluated using intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) and coefficients of variation (CV). Spatial agreement of tract shape was assessed using the kappa (κ) statistic.
Repeated same-scan fiber tracking evaluations showed good geometric alignment (intra-rater κ > 0.90, inter-rater κ > 0.76) and reliable diffusion property measurements (intra-rater ICC > 0.92, inter-rater ICC > 0.77). FA, MD, and λ⊥ were highly reliable with repeated scans on different days, up to a year apart (ICC > 0.8). VV also exhibited good reliability, but with higher CVs. We were unable to demonstrate reproducibility of λ1. Longitudinal reliability after one year was improved by averaging measurements from multiple scans at each timepoint. Fiber tracking provides a reliable tool for the longitudinal evaluation of white matter diffusion properties.
diffusion tensor imaging; tractography; fiber tracking; corticospinal tract; corpus callosum; test-retest reliability
The aim of this study was to investigate the extent of cortical and subcortical lesions in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using, in combination, voxel based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and voxel based morphometry (VBM). We included 15 patients with definite or probable ALS and 25 healthy volunteers. Patients were assessed using the revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS‐R). In patients, reduced fractional anisotropy was found in bilateral corticospinal tracts, the left insula/ventrolateral premotor cortex, the right parietal cortex and the thalamus, which correlated with the ALSFRS‐R. Increased mean diffusivity (MD) was found bilaterally in the motor cortex, the ventrolateral premotor cortex/insula, the hippocampal formations and the right superior temporal gyrus, which did not correlate with the ALSFRS‐R. VBM analysis showed no changes in white matter but widespread volume decreases in grey matter in several regions exhibiting MD abnormalities. In ALS patients, our results show that subcortical lesions extend beyond the corticospinal tract and are clinically relevant.
Several patterns of grey and white matter changes have been separately described in young adults with first-episode psychosis. Concomitant investigation of grey and white matter densities in patients with first-episode psychosis without other psychiatric comorbidities that include all relevant imaging markers could provide clues to the neurodevelopmental hypothesis in schizophrenia.
We recruited patients with first-episode psychosis diagnosed according to the DSM-IV-TR and matched controls. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis and mean diffusivity voxel-based analysis (VBA) were used for grey matter data. Fractional anisotropy and axial, radial and mean diffusivity were analyzed using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) for white matter data.
We included 15 patients and 16 controls. The mean diffusivity VBA showed significantly greater mean diffusivity in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the lingual gyrus bilaterally, the occipital fusiform gyrus bilaterally, the right lateral occipital gyrus and the right inferior temporal gyrus. Moreover, the TBSS analysis revealed a lower fractional anisotropy in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the genu of the corpus callosum, minor forceps, corticospinal tract, right superior longitudinal fasciculus, left middle cerebellar peduncle, left inferior longitudinal fasciculus and the posterior part of the fronto-occipital fasciculus. This analysis also revealed greater radial diffusivity in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the right corticospinal tract, right superior longitudinal fasciculus and left middle cerebellar peduncle.
The modest sample size and the absence of women in our series could limit the impact of our results.
Our results highlight the structural vulnerability of grey matter in posterior areas of the brain among young adult male patients with first-episode psychosis. Moreover, the concomitant greater radial diffusivity within several regions already revealed by the fractional anisotropy analysis supports the idea of a late myelination in patients with first-episode psychosis.
This is a cross-sectional study aimed at investigating cognitive performances in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and using diffusion tensor (DT) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the topographical distribution of microstructural white matter (WM) damage in patients with or without cognitive deficits.
DT MRI scans were obtained from 21 PLS patients and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. All PLS patients underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Tract-based-spatial-statistics (TBSS) was used to perform a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial, radial (radD) and mean diffusivity (MD).
Ten PLS patients had abnormal scores in at least one neuropsychological test (PLS with cognitive deficits, PLS-cd). Compared with healthy controls and cognitively unimpaired PLS patients (PLS-cu), PLS-cd cases showed decreased FA and increased MD and radD in the corticospinal tract (CST), corpus callosum, brainstem, anterior limb of internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, fornix, thalamic radiations, and parietal lobes, bilaterally. Compared with healthy controls, PLS-cd patients showed further decreased FA and increased radD in the cerebellar WM, bilaterally. Compared with controls, PLS-cu patients showed decreased FA in the mid-body of corpus callosum. In PLS, executive and language test scores correlated with WM damage.
This is the first study evaluating the relationship between cognitive performance and WM tract damage in PLS patients. PLS can be associated with a multi-domain cognitive impairment. WM damage to interhemispheric, limbic and major associative WM tracts seem to be the structural correlate of cognitive abnormalities in these patients.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterised by motor neuron degeneration. How this disease affects the central motor network is largely unknown. Here, we combined for the first time structural and functional imaging measures on the motor network in patients with ALS and healthy controls.
Structural measures included whole brain cortical thickness and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of crucial motor tracts. These structural measures were combined with functional connectivity analysis of the motor network based on resting state fMRI. Focal cortical thinning was observed in the primary motor area in patients with ALS compared to controls and was found to correlate with disease progression. DTI revealed reduced FA values in the corpus callosum and in the rostral part of the corticospinal tract. Overall functional organisation of the motor network was unchanged in patients with ALS compared to healthy controls, however the level of functional connectedness was significantly correlated with disease progression rate. Patients with increased connectedness appear to have a more progressive disease course.
We demonstrate structural motor network deterioration in ALS with preserved functional connectivity measures. The positive correlation between functional connectedness of the motor network and disease progression rate could suggest spread of disease along functional connections of the motor network.
To investigate transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) measures as clinical correlates and longitudinal markers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
We prospectively studied 60 patients with ALS subtypes (sporadic ALS, familial ALS, progressive muscular atrophy, and primary lateral sclerosis) using single pulse TMS, recording from abductor digiti minimi (ADM) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscles. We evaluated three measures: 1) TMS motor response threshold to the ADM, 2) central motor conduction time (CMCT), and 3) motor evoked potential amplitude (correcting for peripheral changes). Patients were evaluated at baseline, compared with controls, and followed every 3 months for up to six visits. Changes were analyzed using generalized estimation equations to test linear trends with time.
TMS threshold, CMCT, and TMS amplitude correlated (p < 0.05) with clinical upper motor neuron (UMN) signs at baseline and were different (p < 0.05) from normal controls in at least one response. Seventy-eight percent of patients with UMN (41/52) and 50% (4/8) of patients without clinical UMN signs had prolonged CMCT. All three measures revealed significant deterioration over time: TMS amplitude showed the greatest change, decreasing 8% per month; threshold increased 1.8% per month; and CMCT increased by 0.9% per month.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) findings, particularly TMS amplitude, can objectively discriminate corticospinal tract involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from controls and assess the progression of ALS. While central motor conduction time and response threshold worsen by less than 2% per month, TMS amplitude decrease averages 8% per month, and may be a useful objective marker of disease progression.
= abductor digiti minimi;
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= analysis of variance;
= confidence interval;
= compound motor action potential;
= central motor conduction time;
= deep tendon stretch reflex;
= familial ALS;
= generalized estimation equations;
= lower motor neuron;
= motor evoked potential;
= primary lateral sclerosis;
= progressive muscular atrophy;
= sporadic ALS;
= tibialis anterior;
= transcranial magnetic stimulation;
= upper motor neuron.