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1.  Regional changes in thalamic shape and volume with increasing age 
Neuroimage  2012;63(3):1134-1142.
The thalamus undergoes significant volume loss and microstructural change with increasing age. Alterations in thalamo-cortical connectivity may contribute to the decline in cognitive ability associated with aging. The aim of this study was to assess changes in thalamic shape and in the volume and diffusivity of thalamic regions parcellated by their connectivity to specific cortical regions in order to test the hypothesis age related thalamic change primarily affects thalamic nuclei connecting to the frontal cortex.
Using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), we assessed thalamic volume and diffusivity in 86 healthy volunteers, median (range) age 44 (20–74) years. Regional thalamic micro and macro structural changes were assessed by segmenting the thalamus based on connectivity to the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital cortices and determining the volumes and mean diffusivity of the thalamic projections.
Linear regression analysis was performed to test the relationship between increasing age and (i) normalised thalamic volume, (ii) whole thalamus diffusion measures, (iii) mean diffusivity (MD) of the thalamo-cortical projections, and (iv) volumes of the thalamo-cortical projections. We also assessed thalamic shape change using vertex analysis.
We observed a significant reduction in the volume and a significant increase in MD of the whole thalamus with increasing age. The volume of the thalamo-frontal projections decreased significantly with increasing age, however there was no significant relationship between the volumes of the thalamo-cortical projections to the parietal, temporal, and occipital cortex and age. Thalamic shape analysis showed that the greatest shape change was in the anterior thalamus, incorporating regions containing the anterior nucleus, the ventroanterior nucleus and the dorsomedial nucleus. To explore these results further we studied two additional groups of subjects (a younger and an older aged group, n = 20), which showed that the volume of the thalamo-frontal projections was correlated to executive functions scores, as assessed by the Stroop test. These data suggest that atrophy of the frontal thalamo-cortical unit may explain, at least in part, disorders of attention, working memory and executive function associated with increasing age.
PMCID: PMC3507623  PMID: 22846656
Healthy aging; Thalamus; Thalamo-cortical connectivity; Diffusion tensor imaging; Vertex analysis
2.  Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Post Mortem Multiple Sclerosis Brain 
NeuroImage  2006;35(2):467-477.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is being used to probe the central nervous system (CNS) of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic demyelinating disease. Conventional T2-weighted MRI (cMRI) largely fails to predict the degree of patients' disability. This shortcoming may be due to poor specificity of cMRI for clinically relevant pathology. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has shown promise to be more specific for MS pathology. In this study we investigated the association between histological indices of myelin content, axonal count and gliosis, and two measures of DTI (mean diffusivity [MD] and fractional anisotropy [FA]), in unfixed post mortem MS brain using a 1.5-T MR system. Both MD and FA were significantly lower in post mortem MS brain compared to published data acquired in vivo. However, the differences of MD and FA described in vivo between white matter lesions (WMLs) and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) were retained in this study of post mortem brain: average MD in WMLs was 0.35×10−3 mm2/s (SD, 0.09) versus 0.22 (0.04) in NAWM; FA was 0.22 (0.06) in WMLs versus 0.38 (0.13) in NAWM. Correlations were detected between myelin content (Trmyelin) and (i) FA (r=−0.79, p<0.001), (ii) MD (r=0.68, p<0.001), and (iii) axonal count (r=−0.81, p<0.001). Multiple regression suggested that these correlations largely explain the apparent association of axonal count with (i) FA (r=0.70, p<0.001) and (ii) MD (r=−0.66, p<0.001). In conclusion, this study suggests that FA and MD are affected by myelin content and – to a lesser degree – axonal count in post mortem MS brain.
PMCID: PMC1892244  PMID: 17258908
3.  Diffusion tensor imaging of post mortem multiple sclerosis brain 
Neuroimage  2007;35(2):467-477.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is being used to probe the central nervous system (CNS) of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic demyelinating disease. Conventional T2-weighted MRI (cMRI) largely fails to predict the degree of patients' disability. This shortcoming may be due to poor specificity of cMRI for clinically relevant pathology. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has shown promise to be more specific for MS pathology. In this study we investigated the association between histological indices of myelin content, axonal count and gliosis, and two measures of DTI (mean diffusivity [MD] and fractional anisotropy [FA]), in unfixed post mortem MS brain using a 1.5-T MR system. Both MD and FA were significantly lower in post mortem MS brain compared to published data acquired in vivo. However, the differences of MD and FA described in vivo between white matter lesions (WMLs) and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) were retained in this study of post mortem brain: average MD in WMLs was 0.35 × 10− 3 mm2/s (SD, 0.09) versus 0.22 (0.04) in NAWM; FA was 0.22 (0.06) in WMLs versus 0.38 (0.13) in NAWM. Correlations were detected between myelin content (Trmyelin) and (i) FA (r = − 0.79, p < 0.001), (ii) MD (r = 0.68, p < 0.001), and (iii) axonal count (r = − 0.81, p < 0.001). Multiple regression suggested that these correlations largely explain the apparent association of axonal count with (i) FA (r = 0.70, p < 0.001) and (ii) MD (r = − 0.66, p < 0.001). In conclusion, this study suggests that FA and MD are affected by myelin content and – to a lesser degree – axonal count in post mortem MS brain.
PMCID: PMC1892244  PMID: 17258908
4.  Development of Cerebral Fiber Pathways in Cats revealed by Diffusion Spectrum Imaging 
NeuroImage  2009;49(2):1231-1240.
Examination of the three-dimensional axonal pathways in the developing brain is key to understanding the formation of cerebral connectivity. By tracing fiber pathways throughout the entire brain, diffusion tractography provides information that cannot be achieved by conventional anatomical MR imaging or histology. However, standard diffusion tractography (based on diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI) tends to terminate in brain areas with low water diffusivity, indexed by low diffusion fractional anisotropy (FA), which can be caused by crossing fibers as well as fibers with less myelin. For this reason, DTI tractography is not effective for delineating the structural changes that occur in the developing brain, where the process of myelination is incomplete, and where crossing fibers exist in greater numbers than in the adult brain. Unlike DTI, diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) can define multiple directions of water diffusivity; as such, diffusion tractography based on DSI provides marked flexibility for delineation of fiber tracts in areas where the fiber architecture is complex and multidirectional, even in areas of low FA. In this study, we showed that FA values were lower in the white matter of newborn (postnatal day 0; P0) cat brains than in the white matter of infant (P35) and juvenile (P100) cat brains. These results correlated well with histological myelin stains of the white matter: the newborn kitten brain has much less myelin than that found in cat brains at later stages of development. Using DSI tractography, we successfully identified structural changes in thalamo-cortical and cortico-cortical association tracts in cat brains from one stage of development to another. In newborns, the main body of the thalamo-cortical tract was smooth, and fibers branching from it were almost straight, while the main body became more complex and branching fibers became curved reflecting gyrification in the older cats. Cortico-cortical tracts in the temporal lobe were smooth in newborns, and they formed a sharper angle in the later stages of development. The cingulum bundle and superior longitudinal fasciculus became more visible with time. Within the first month after birth, structural changes occurred in these tracts that coincided with the formation of the gyri. These results show that DSI tractography has the potential for mapping morphological changes in low FA areas associated with growth and development. The technique may also be applicable to the study of other forms of brain plasticity, including future studies in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2789885  PMID: 19747553
Diffusion Spectrum Imaging; Tractography; Development; Thalamo-cortical tracts; Cat
5.  A robust method for investigating thalamic white matter tracts after traumatic brain injury 
Neuroimage  2012;63(2):779-788.
Damage to the structural connections of the thalamus is a frequent feature of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can be a key factor in determining clinical outcome. Until recently it has been difficult to quantify the extent of this damage in vivo. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) provides a validated method to investigate traumatic axonal injury, and can be applied to quantify damage to thalamic connections. DTI can also be used to assess white matter tract structure using tractography, and this technique has been used to study thalamo-cortical connections in the healthy brain. However, the presence of white matter injury can cause failure of tractography algorithms. Here, we report a method for investigating thalamo-cortical connectivity that bypasses the need for individual tractography. We first created a template for a number of thalamo-cortical connections using probabilistic tractography performed in ten healthy subjects. This template for investigating white matter structure was validated by comparison with individual tractography in the same group, as well as in an independent control group (N = 11). We also evaluated two methods of masking tract location using the tract skeleton generated by tract based spatial statistics, and a cerebrospinal fluid mask. Voxel-wise estimates of fractional anisotropy derived from the template were more strongly correlated with individual tractography when both types of masking were used. The tract templates were then used to sample DTI measures from a group of TBI patients (N = 22), with direct comparison performed against probabilistic tractography in individual patients. Probabilistic tractography often failed to produce anatomically plausible tracts in TBI patients. Importantly, we show that this problem increases as tracts become more damaged, and leads to underestimation of the amount of traumatic axonal injury. In contrast, the tract template can be used in these cases, allowing a more accurate assessment of white matter damage. In summary, we propose a method suitable for assessing specific thalamo-cortical white matter connections after TBI that is robust to the presence of varying amounts of traumatic axonal injury, as well as highlighting the potential problems of applying tractography algorithms in patient populations.
► TBI produces significant damage to thalamo-cortical white matter connections. ► This damage disrupts probabilistic tractography in patients. ► The error associated with patient tractography increases with tract damage. ► A template approach allows more accurate estimation of tract damage after TBI.
PMCID: PMC3471070  PMID: 22813952
TH, thalamus; ACCR, right anterior cingulate cortex; ACCL, left anterior cingulate cortex; IFGR, right inferior frontal gyrus; IFGL, left inferior frontal gyrus; SFGR, right superior frontal gyrus; SFGL, left superior frontal gyrus; SPLR, right superior parietal lobe; SPLL, left superior parietal lobe; STGR, right superior temporal gyrus; STGL, left superior temporal lobe; Diffusion tensor imaging; Tractography; Thalamus; Traumatic axonal injury
6.  Pyramidal tract mapping by diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging in multiple sclerosis: improving correlations with disability 
Background: Current magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) outcome measures such as T2 lesion load correlate poorly with disability in multiple sclerosis. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain can provide unique information regarding the orientation and integrity of white matter tracts in vivo.
Objective: To use this information to map the pyramidal tracts of patients with multiple sclerosis, investigate the relation between burden of disease in the tracts and disability, and compare this with more global magnetic resonance estimates of disease burden.
Methods: 25 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and 17 healthy volunteers were studied with DTI. An algorithm was used that automatically produced anatomically plausible maps of white matter tracts. The integrity of the pyramidal tracts was assessed using relative anisotropy and a novel measure (Lt) derived from the compounded relative anisotropy along the tracts. The methods were compared with both traditional and more recent techniques for measuring disease burden in multiple sclerosis (T2 lesion load and "whole brain" diffusion histograms).
Results: Relative anisotropy and Lt were significantly lower in patients than controls (p < 0.05). Pyramidal tract Lt in the patients correlated significantly with both expanded disability status scale (r = -0.48, p < 0.05), and to a greater degree, the pyramidal Kurtzke functional system score (KFS-p) (r = -0.75, p < 0.0001). T2 lesion load and diffusion histogram parameters did not correlate with disability.
Conclusions: Tract mapping using DTI is feasible and may increase the specificity of MRI in multiple sclerosis by matching appropriate tracts with specific clinical scoring systems. These techniques may be applicable to a wide range of neurological conditions.
PMCID: PMC1738288  PMID: 12531950
7.  Impaired thalamocortical connectivity in autism spectrum disorder: a study of functional and anatomical connectivity 
Brain  2013;136(6):1942-1955.
The thalamus plays crucial roles in the development and mature functioning of numerous sensorimotor, cognitive and attentional circuits. Currently limited evidence suggests that autism spectrum disorder may be associated with thalamic abnormalities, potentially related to sociocommunicative and other impairments in this disorder. We used functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging probabilistic tractography to study the functional and anatomical integrity of thalamo-cortical connectivity in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and matched typically developing children. For connectivity with five cortical seeds (prefontal, parieto-occipital, motor, somatosensory and temporal), we found evidence of both anatomical and functional underconnectivity. The only exception was functional connectivity with the temporal lobe, which was increased in the autism spectrum disorders group, especially in the right hemisphere. However, this effect was robust only in partial correlation analyses (partialling out time series from other cortical seeds), whereas findings from total correlation analyses suggest that temporo-thalamic overconnectivity in the autism group was only relative to the underconnectivity found for other cortical seeds. We also found evidence of microstructural compromise within the thalamic motor parcel, associated with compromise in tracts between thalamus and motor cortex, suggesting that the thalamus may play a role in motor abnormalities reported in previous autism studies. More generally, a number of correlations of diffusion tensor imaging and functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging measures with diagnostic and neuropsychological scores indicate involvement of abnormal thalamocortical connectivity in sociocommunicative and cognitive impairments in autism spectrum disorder.
PMCID: PMC3673456  PMID: 23739917
autism; thalamus; connectivity; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging
8.  Cerebello-Thalamo-Cortical Connectivity Regulates Penetrance in Dystonia 
Dystonia is a brain disorder characterized by sustained involuntary muscle contractions. It is typically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with incomplete penetrance. While lacking clear degenerative neuropathology, primary dystonia is thought to involve microstructural and functional changes in neuronal circuitry. In the current study, we used magnetic resonance (MR) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and probabilistic tractography to identify the specific circuit abnormalities that underlie clinical penetrance in carriers of genetic mutations for this disorder. This approach revealed reduced integrity of cerebello-thalamo-cortical (CbTC) fiber tracts, likely developmental in origin, in both manifesting and clinically non-manifesting dystonia mutation carriers. In these subjects, reductions in cerebello-thalamic connectivity correlated with increased motor activation responses, consistent with loss of inhibition at the cortical level. Non-manifesting mutation carriers were distinguished by an additional area of fiber tract disruption situated distally along the thalamo-cortical segment of the pathway, in tandem with the proximal cerebellar outflow abnormality. In individual gene carriers, clinical penetrance was determined by the difference in connectivity measured at these two sites. Overall, these findings point to a novel mechanism to explain differences in clinical expression in carriers of genes for brain disease.
PMCID: PMC2745646  PMID: 19657027
dystonia; connectivity; imaging; genetics; development; cerebral blood flow
9.  Thalamo-striato-cortical determinants to fatigue in multiple sclerosis 
Brain and Behavior  2013;3(6):715-728.
The aim was to explore the thalamo-striato-cortical theory of central fatigue in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with self-reported fatigue. If the theory correctly predicted fatigue based on disruptions of the thalamo-striato-cortical network, we expected altered brain activation in this network in MS participants while performing a complex cognitive task that challenged fatigue.
MS participants with self-reported fatigue were examined by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during the performance of a complex working memory task. In this task, cognitive effort was challenged by a parametric design, which modeled the cerebral responses at increasing cognitive demands. In order to explore the theory of central fatigue in MS we also analyzed the cerebral responses by adding perceived fatigue scores as covariates in the analysis and by calculating the functional connectivity between regions in the thalamo-striatocortical network. The main findings were that MS participants elicited altered brain responses in the thalamo-striato-cortical network, and that brain activation in the left posterior parietal cortex and the right substantia nigra was positively correlated to perceived fatigue ratings. MS participants had stronger cortical-to-cortical and subcortical-to-subcortical connections, whereas they had weaker cortical-to-subcortical connections.
The findings of the present study indicate that the thalamo-striato-cortical network is involved in the pathophysiology of fatigue in MS, and provide support for the theory of central fatigue. However, due to the limited number of participants and the somewhat heterogeneous sample of MS participants, these results have to be regarded as tentative, though they might serve as a basis for future studies.
PMCID: PMC3868176  PMID: 24363974
Basal ganglia; functional magnetic resonance imaging; parietal cortex; substantia nigra; working memory
10.  Multiple Sclerosis Normal-Appearing White Matter: Pathology-Imaging Correlations 
Annals of neurology  2011;70(5):764-773.
To determine the pathologic basis of subtle abnormalities in magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) parameters observed in normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) in multiple sclerosis (MS) brains.
Brain tissues were obtained through a rapid post-mortem protocol that included in situ MRI. Four types of MRI-defined regions of interest (ROIs) were analyzed: (1) Regions that were abnormal on all images (“T2T1MTR lesions”); (2) NAWM regions with slightly-abnormal MTR located close to white matter lesions (“sa-WM Close”); (3) NAWM regions with slightly-abnormal MTR located far from lesions (“sa-WM Far”); and (4) NAWM regions with normal MTR (“NAWM”).
Immunohistochemical analysis for each ROI comprised immunostaining for myelin, axonal markers, activated microglia/macrophages, astrocytes, plasma proteins and blood vessels.
Forty-eight ROIs from four secondary progressive MS brains were analyzed. Sa-WM Close ROIs were associated with significantly more axonal swellings. There were more enlarged MHCII(+) microglia and macrophages detected in sa-WM Far, sa-WM Close, and T2T1MTR lesions than in NAWM. Across all ROIs, MTR and DTI measures were moderately correlated with myelin density, axonal area and axonal counts. Excluding T2T1MTR lesions from analysis revealed that MTR and DTI measures in non-lesional WM were correlated with activated microglia, but not with axonal or myelin integrity.
The pathologic substrates for MRI abnormalities in NAWM vary based on distance from focal WM lesions. Close to WM lesions, axonal pathology and microglial activation may explain subtle MRI changes. Distant from lesions, microglial activation associated with proximity to cortical lesions might underlie MRI abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC3241216  PMID: 22162059
11.  Abnormal thalamocortical structural and functional connectivity in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy 
Brain  2012;135(12):3635-3644.
Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is the most common idiopathic generalized epilepsy, characterized by frequent myoclonic jerks, generalized tonic-clonic seizures and, less commonly, absences. Neuropsychological and, less consistently, anatomical studies have indicated frontal lobe dysfunction in the disease. Given its presumed thalamo–cortical basis, we investigated thalamo–cortical structural connectivity, as measured by diffusion tensor imaging, in a cohort of 28 participants with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and detected changes in an anterior thalamo–cortical bundle compared with healthy control subjects. We then investigated task-modulated functional connectivity from the anterior thalamic region identified using functional magnetic resonance imaging in a task consistently shown to be impaired in this group, phonemic verbal fluency. We demonstrate an alteration in task-modulated connectivity in a region of frontal cortex directly connected to the thalamus via the same anatomical bundle, and overlapping with the supplementary motor area. Further, we show that the degree of abnormal connectivity is related to disease severity in those with active seizures. By integrating methods examining structural and effective interregional connectivity, these results provide convincing evidence for abnormalities in a specific thalamo–cortical circuit, with reduced structural and task-induced functional connectivity, which may underlie the functional abnormalities in this idiopathic epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC3525058  PMID: 23250883
juvenile myoclonic epilepsy; connectivity; functional MRI; diffusion MRI
12.  Therapeutic testosterone administration preserves excitatory synaptic transmission in the hippocampus during autoimmune demyelinating disease 
Over 50% of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients experience cognitive deficits, and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment has been reported in over 30% of these patients. While post-mortem pathology studies and in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrate that the hippocampus is targeted in MS, the neuropathology underlying hippocampal dysfunction remains unknown. Furthermore, there are no treatments available to date to effectively prevent neurodegeneration and associated cognitive dysfunction in MS. We have recently demonstrated that the hippocampus is also targeted in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the most widely used animal model of MS. The objective of this study was to assess whether a candidate treatment (testosterone) could prevent hippocampal synaptic dysfunction and underlying pathology when administered in either a preventative or a therapeutic (post-disease induction) manner. Electrophysiological studies revealed impairments in basal excitatory synaptic transmission that involved both AMPA receptor-mediated changes in synaptic currents, and faster decay rates of NMDA receptor-mediated currents in mice with EAE. Neuropathology revealed atrophy of the pyramidal and dendritic layers of hippocampal cornu ammonis 1 (CA1), decreased pre (Synapsin-1) and post (postsynaptic density 95; PSD-95) synaptic staining, diffuse demyelination, and microglial activation. Testosterone treatment administered either before or after disease induction restores excitatory synaptic transmission as well as pre- and postsynaptic protein levels within the hippocampus. Furthermore, cross-modality correlations demonstrate that fluctuations in excitatory postsynaptic potentials are significantly correlated to changes in postsynaptic protein levels and suggest that PSD-95 is a neuropathological substrate to impaired synaptic transmission in the hippocampus during EAE. This is the first report demonstrating that testosterone is a viable therapeutic treatment option that can restore both hippocampal function and disease-associated pathology that occur during autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC3571760  PMID: 22956822
hippocampus; synaptic transmission; testosterone; PSD-95; experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; Multiple Sclerosis
13.  Patterns of disease activity in multiple sclerosis: clinical and magnetic resonance imaging study. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1990;300(6725):631-634.
OBJECTIVE--To compare the abnormalities shown by magnetic resonance imaging of the brain in three clinically distinct groups of patients with multiple sclerosis, and to correlate the extent of abnormality with the degree of clinical disability in the three groups. DESIGN--All patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging and full neurological examination, and their disability was scored according to the expanded Kurtzke disability state scale. SETTING--National Hospital for Nervous Diseases (Multiple Sclerosis NMR Research Group). PATIENTS--Three groups of patients with confirmed multiple sclerosis were studied: 12 patients with minimal disability despite a long (greater than 10 years) duration of illness (benign multiple sclerosis), 16 who had developed progressive disability after a relapsing and remitting course (secondary progressive multiple sclerosis), and 13 who had had progressive disability from the onset of the disease (primary progressive multiple sclerosis). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Number and size of lesions in 17 anatomically defined sites; total lesion load, estimated with an arbitrary scoring system weighted for the size of lesions; and disability score. RESULTS--Magnetic resonance imaging showed that all 41 patients had abnormalities. These were extensive in the groups with secondary progressive and benign disease compared with the group with primary progressive disease. The lesions in the patients with secondary progressive disease were larger and more confluent than those in the two other groups (p = 0.007). Most lesions (85%) in the patients with primary progressive disease were under 5 mm in diameter; this percentage was higher than that in the two other groups (p = 0.032). Consequently the patients with primary progressive disease had the lowest mean lesion load (36.7); that in the patients with benign disease was 52.7 and that in the patients with secondary progressive disease 64.6 (p = 0.05). No correlation existed between disability and total lesion load. The distribution of brain lesions and of detectable lesions of the spinal cord, and the frequency of cortical atrophy, were similar in all groups. CONCLUSIONS--No relation was found between the degree of clinical disability and the extent of abnormality shown by magnetic resonance imaging: patients with clinically benign disease often had extensive abnormalities and those with primary progressive disease had surprisingly few lesions. Though magnetic resonance imaging increases knowledge of the disease process in multiple sclerosis and is invaluable in diagnosis, it is not helpful in predicting disability in individual patients.
PMCID: PMC1662448  PMID: 2138923
14.  Impaired small-world efficiency in structural cortical networks in multiple sclerosis associated with white matter lesion load 
Brain  2009;132(12):3366-3379.
White matter tracts, which play a crucial role in the coordination of information flow between different regions of grey matter, are particularly vulnerable to multiple sclerosis. Many studies have shown that the white matter lesions in multiple sclerosis are associated with focal abnormalities of grey matter, but little is known about the alterations in the coordinated patterns of cortical morphology among regions in the disease. Here, we used cortical thickness measurements from structural magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relationship between the white matter lesion load and the topological efficiency of structural cortical networks in multiple sclerosis. Network efficiency was defined using a ‘small-world’ network model that quantifies the effectiveness of information transfer within brain networks. In this study, we first classified patients (n = 330) into six subgroups according to their total white matter lesion loads, and identified structural brain networks for each multiple sclerosis group by thresholding the corresponding inter-regional cortical thickness correlation matrix, followed by a network efficiency analysis with graph theoretical approaches. The structural cortical networks in multiple sclerosis demonstrated efficient small-world architecture regardless of the lesion load, an organization that maximizes the information processing at a relatively low wiring cost. However, we found that the overall small-world network efficiency in multiple sclerosis was significantly disrupted in a manner proportional to the extent of total white matter lesions. Moreover, regional efficiency was also significantly decreased in specific brain regions, including the insula and precentral gyrus as well as regions of prefrontal and temporal association cortices. Finally, we showed that the lesions also altered many cortical thickness correlations in the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. Our results suggest that the white matter lesions in multiple sclerosis might be associated with aberrant neuronal connectivity among widely distributed brain regions, and provide structural (morphological) evidence for the notion of multiple sclerosis as a disconnection syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2792366  PMID: 19439423
cortical thickness; connectivity; MRI; multiple sclerosis; small-world networks
15.  Combining tractography and cortical measures to test system-specific hypotheses in multiple sclerosis 
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.
PMCID: PMC2925387  PMID: 20215478
atrophy; MRI; relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis
16.  Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Cortical Multiple Sclerosis Pathology 
Although significant improvements have been made regarding the visualization and characterization of cortical multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cortical lesions (CL) continue to be under-detected in vivo, and we have a limited understanding of the causes of GM pathology. The objective of this study was to characterize the MRI signature of CLs to help interpret the changes seen in vivo and elucidate the factors limiting their visualization. A quantitative 3D high-resolution (350 μm isotropic) MRI study at 3 Tesla of a fixed post mortem cerebral hemisphere from a patient with MS is presented in combination with matched immunohistochemistry. Type III subpial lesions are characterized by an increase in T1, T2 and M0, and a decrease in MTR in comparison to the normal appearing cortex (NAC). All quantitative MR parameters were associated with cortical GM myelin content, while T1 showed the strongest correlation. The histogram analysis showed extensive overlap between CL and NAC for all MR parameters and myelin content. This is due to the poor contrast in myelin content between CL and NAC in comparison to the variability in myelo-architecture throughout the healthy cortex. This latter comparison is highlighted by the representation of T1 times on cortical surfaces at several laminar depths.
PMCID: PMC3506905  PMID: 23213531
17.  In vivo imaging of cortical pathology in multiple sclerosis using ultra-high field MRI 
Neurology  2009;73(12):941-948.
We used ultra-high field MRI to visualize cortical lesion types described by neuropathology in 16 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) compared with 8 age-matched controls; to characterize the contrast properties of cortical lesions including T2*, T2, T1, and phase images; and to investigate the relationship between cortical lesion types and clinical data.
We collected, on a 7-T scanner, 2-dimensional fast low-angle shot (FLASH)-T2*-weighted spoiled gradient-echo, T2-weighted turbo spin-echo (TSE) images (0.33 × 033 × 1 mm3), and a 3-dimensional magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo.
Overall, 199 cortical lesions were detected in patients on both FLASH-T2* and T2-TSE scans. Seven-tesla MRI allowed for characterization of cortical plaques into type I (leukocortical), type II (intracortical), and type III/IV (subpial extending partly or completely through the cortical width) lesions as described histopathologically. Types III and IV were the most frequent type of cortical plaques (50.2%), followed by type I (36.2%) and type II (13.6%) lesions. Each lesion type was more frequent in secondary progressive than in relapsing–remitting MS. This difference, however, was significant only for type III/IV lesions. T2*-weighted images showed the highest, while phase images showed the lowest, contrast-to-noise ratio for all cortical lesion types. In patients, the number of type III/IV lesions was associated with greater disability (p < 0.02 by Spearman test) and older age (p < 0.04 by Spearman test).
Seven-tesla MRI detected different histologic cortical lesion types in our small multiple sclerosis (MS) sample, suggesting, if validated in a larger population, that it may prove a valuable tool to assess the contribution of cortical MS pathology to clinical disability.
= analysis of variance;
= background noise;
= contrast-to-noise ratio;
= double-inversion recovery;
= Expanded Disability Status Scale;
= fluid-attenuated inversion recovery;
= fast low-angle shot;
= gray matter;
= magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo;
= magnetic resonance;
= multiple sclerosis;
= normal-appearing cortical gray matter;
= radiofrequency;
= region of interest;
= relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis;
= signal-to-noise ratio;
= secondary progressive multiple sclerosis;
= time of acquisition;
= echo time;
= repetition time;
= turbo spin-echo;
= white matter.
PMCID: PMC2754332  PMID: 19641168
18.  Independent Sources of Spontaneous BOLD Fluctuation Along the Visual Pathway 
Brain topography  2013;26(4):10.1007/s10548-013-0290-1.
In resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, correlation analysis can be used to identify clusters of cortical regions that may be functionally connected. Although such functional connectivity is often assumed to reflect cortico-cortical connections, a potential confound is the contribution of subcortical brain regions, many of which have strong anatomical connectivity to cortical regions and may also enable cortico-cortical interactions through trans-thalamic pathways. To investigate this, we performed resting state fMRI of the human visual system, including cortical regions and subcortical nuclei of the pulvinar and lateral geniculate. Regression analysis was used to investigate the dependence of the measured inter-regional correlations upon afferents from specific retinal, thalamic and cortical regions as well as systemic global signal fluctuation. A high level of interhemispheric correlation (cc = 0.95) was found in the visual cortex that could not be explained by activity in the subcortical nuclei investigated; in addition a relatively low level of inter-hemispheric correlation (cc = 0.39–0.42) was found in vision-related thalamic nuclei that could not be explained by direct anatomical connections or their cortical inputs. These findings suggest that spontaneous fMRI signal correlations within the human visual system originate from a mixture of independent signal sources that may be transmitted through thalamo-cortical, cortico-thalamic, and cortico-cortical connections either trans-callosal or trans-thalamic in origin. Our findings thus call for more cautious interpretation of resting state functional connectivity in terms of any single type of anatomical connectivity.
PMCID: PMC3815538  PMID: 23660870
Resting state fMRI; Human visual system; Brain connectivity; Correlation analysis; Callosal pathway; Thalamic pathway
19.  The radial diffusivity and magnetization transfer pool size ratio are sensitive markers for demyelination in a rat model of type III multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions 
NeuroImage  2013;74:298-305.
Determining biophysical sensitivity and specificity of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging is essential to develop effective imaging metrics of neurodegeneration. Among these metrics apparent pool size ratio (PSR) from quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) imaging and radial diffusivity (RD) from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are both known to relate to histological measure of myelin density and integrity. However their relative sensitivities towards quantitative myelin detection are unknown. In this study, we correlated high-resolution quantitative magnetic resonance imaging measures of subvoxel tissue structures with corresponding quantitative myelin histology in a lipopolysacharide (LPS) mediated animal model of MS. Specifically, we acquired quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics (on the same tissue sample) in an animal model system of type III oligodendrogliopathy which lacked prominent lymphocytic infiltration, a system that had not been previously examined with quantitative MRI. We find that the qMT measured apparent pool size ratio (PSR) showed the strongest correlation with a histological measure of myelin content. DTI measured RD showed the next strongest correlation, and other DTI and relaxation parameters (such as the longitudinal relaxation rate (R1f) or fractional anisotropy (FA)) showed considerably weaker correlations with myelin content.
PMCID: PMC3995162  PMID: 23481461
Quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT); Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI); 9.4T; White matter; Myelin; demyelination; lippopolysaccharide (LPS); Rat brain; Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
20.  DTI detects water diffusion abnormalities in the thalamus that correlate with an extremity pain episode in a patient with multiple sclerosis☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2013;2:258-262.
Various types of multiple sclerosis (MS) related pain have been discussed. One concept is that deafferentation secondary to lesions in the spino-thalamo-cortical network can cause central pain. However, this hypothesis is somehow limited by a lack of a robust association between pain episodes and sites of lesion location.
We tested the hypothesis that temporary tissue alterations in the thalamus that are not detectable by conventional magnetic resonance imaging (T1w, FLAIR) can potentially explain a focal, paroxysmal central pain episode of a patient with MS. For microstructural tissue assessment we employed ten longitudinal diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) examinations.
We could demonstrate an abnormal, unilateral temporary increase of the fractional anisotropy (FA) in the thalamus contralateral to the affected body side. Before the pain episode and after pain relief the FA reached completely normal values as seen in identically investigated age and gender matched 100 healthy control subjects.
These findings suggest that: i.) frequently applied and quantitatively evaluated DTI could be used as a sensitive imaging technique for detection of pathological processes associated with MS not detectable with conventional imaging strategies, ii.) temporary pathological processes in the “normal-appearing” thalamus may explain waxing and waning symptoms like episodes of central pain, and iii.) cross-sectional case examinations on (MS) patients with central pain should be performed to investigate how often thalamic alterations occur together with central pain.
► Illustration of robustness of quantitative assessment of thalamus microstructure by DTI ► “Normal-appearing” thalamus may explain central pain in multiple sclerosis. ► Suggestion of deep gray matter assessment by DTI in multiple sclerosis
PMCID: PMC3778262  PMID: 24179780
21.  Evaluation of white matter myelin water fraction in chronic stroke☆ 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2013;2:569-580.
Multi-component T2 relaxation imaging (MCRI) provides specific in vivo measurement of myelin water content and tissue water environments through myelin water fraction (MWF), intra/extra-cellular water fraction (I/EWF) and intra/extracellular and global geometric mean T2 (GMT2) times. Quantitative MCRI assessment of tissue water environments has provided new insights into the progression and underlying white matter pathology in neural disorders such as multiple sclerosis. It has not previously been applied to investigate changes in white matter in the stroke-affected brain. Thus, the purposes of this study were to 1) use MCRI to index myelin water content and tissue water environments in the brain after stroke 2) evaluate relationships between MWF and diffusion behavior indexed by diffusion tensor imaging-based metrics and 3) examine the relationship between white matter status (MWF and fractional anisotropy) and motor behavior in the chronic phase of stroke recovery. Twenty individuals with ischemic stroke and 12 matched healthy controls participated. Excellent to good test/re-test and inter-rater reliability was observed for region of interest-based voxelwise MWF data. Reduced MWF was observed in whole-cerebrum white matter (p < 0.001) and in the ipsilesional (p = 0.017) and contralesional (p = 0.037) posterior limb of internal capsule (PLIC) after stroke compared to whole-cerebrum and bilateral PLIC MWF in healthy controls. The stroke group also demonstrated increased I/EWF, I/E GMT2 and global GMT2 times for whole-cerebrum white matter. Measures of diffusion behavior were also significantly different in the stroke group across each region investigated (p < 0.001). MWF was not significantly correlated with specific tensor-based measures of diffusion in the PLIC for either group. Fractional anisotropy in the ipsilesional PLIC correlated with motor behavior in chronic stroke. These results provide novel insights into tissue-specific changes within white matter after stroke that may have important applications for the understanding of the neuropathology of stroke.
•Changes in structural properties of white matter may occur after stroke.•In vivo magnetic resonance techniques used to quantify brain myelin water fraction.•The imaging approach used showed excellent test/re-test and inter-rater reliability.•Local and global reductions in brain myelin water fraction shown in chronic stroke.•First report of in vivo changes in brain myelin in humans following stroke.
PMCID: PMC3777839  PMID: 24179808
Stroke; Myelin water fraction; T2 relaxation; Motor recovery; White matter
22.  Anterior limb of the internal capsule in schizotypal personality disorder: Fiber-tract counting, volume, and anisotropy 
Schizophrenia research  2012;141(0):119-127.
Mounting evidence suggests that white matter abnormalities and altered subcortical–cortical connectivity may be central to the pathology of schizophrenia (SZ). The anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) is an important thalamo-frontal white-matter tract shown to have volume reductions in SZ and to a lesser degree in schizotypal personality disorder (SPD). While fractional anisotropy (FA) and connectivity abnormalities in the ALIC have been reported in SZ, they have not been examined in SPD. In the current study, magnetic resonance (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) were obtained in age- and sex-matched individuals with SPD (n=33) and healthy controls (HCs; n=38). The ALIC was traced bilaterally on five equally spaced dorsal-to-ventral axial slices from each participant’s MRI scan and co-registered to DTI for the calculation of FA. Tractography was used to examine tracts between the ALIC and two key Brodmann areas (BAs; BA10, BA45) within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Compared with HCs, the SPD participants exhibited (a) smaller relative volume at the mid-ventral ALIC slice level but not the other levels; (b) normal FA within the ALIC; (c) fewer relative number of tracts between the most-dorsal ALIC levels and BA10 but not BA45 and (d) fewer dorsal ALIC–DLPFC tracts were associated with greater symptom severity in SPD. In contrast to prior SZ studies that report lower FA, individuals with SPD show sparing. Our findings are consistent with a pattern of milder thalamo-frontal dysconnectivity in SPD than schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3742803  PMID: 22995934
Schizotypal personality disorder; Diffusion tensor imaging; Tractography; Magnetic resonance imaging; Anisotropy; Internal capsule
23.  Purkinje Cell Loss in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis 
NeuroImage  2009;48(4):637-651.
Gray matter atrophy observed by brain MRI is an important correlate to clinical disability and disease duration in multiple sclerosis. The objective of this study was to link brain atrophy visualized by neuroimaging to its underlying neuropathology using the MS model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Volumetric changes in brains of EAE mice, as well as matched healthy normal controls, were quantified by collecting post-mortem high-resolution T2-weighted magnetic resonance microscopy and actively-stained magnetic resonance histology images. Anatomical delineations demonstrated a significant decrease in the volume of the whole cerebellum, cerebellar cortex, and molecular layer of the cerebellar cortex in EAE as compared to normal controls. The pro-apoptotic marker caspase-3 was detected in Purkinje cells and a significant decrease in Purkinje cell number was found in EAE. Cross modality and temporal correlations revealed a significant association between Purkinje cell loss on neuropathology and atrophy of the molecular layer of the cerebellar cortex by neuroimaging. These results demonstrate the power of using combined population atlasing and neuropathology approaches to discern novel insights underlying gray matter atrophy in animal models of neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC2754586  PMID: 19589388
cerebellum; gray matter atrophy; mouse; MRI; multiple sclerosis
24.  In Vivo Longitudinal MRI and Behavioral Studies in Experimental Spinal Cord Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2010;27(10):1753-1767.
Comprehensive in vivo longitudinal studies that include multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a battery of behavioral assays to assess functional outcome were performed at multiple time points up to 56 days post-traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) in rodents. The MRI studies included high-resolution structural imaging for lesion volumetry, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) for probing the white matter integrity. The behavioral assays included open-field locomotion, grid walking, inclined plane, computerized activity box performance, and von Frey filament tests. Additionally, end-point histology was assessed for correlation with both the MRI and behavioral data. The temporal patterns of the lesions were documented on structural MRI. DTI studies showed significant changes in white matter that is proximal to the injury epicenter and persisted to day 56. White matter in regions up to 1 cm away from the injury epicenter that appeared normal on conventional MRI also exhibited changes that were indicative of tissue damage, suggesting that DTI is a more sensitive measure of the evolving injury. Correlations between DTI and histology after SCI could not be firmly established, suggesting that injury causes complex pathological changes in multiple tissue components that affect the DTI measures. Histological evidence confirmed a significant decrease in myelin and oligodendrocyte presence 56 days post-SCI. Multiple assays to evaluate aspects of functional recovery correlated with histology and DTI measures, suggesting that damage to specific white matter tracts can be assessed and tracked longitudinally after SCI.
PMCID: PMC2992395  PMID: 20649481
behavioral assays; diffusion tensor imaging; rat spinal cord injury; magnetic resonance imaging
25.  Magnetic Resonance Imaging And Brain Histopathology In Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) often demonstrates brain lesions in neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (NPSL). The present study compared post-mortem histopathology with pre-mortem MRI in NPSL.
200 subjects with NPSLE were studied prospectively with MRI over a 10-year period during which 22 subjects died. In 14 subjects, a brain autopsy with histopathology that permitted direct comparison with pre mortem MRI was successfully obtained. Surface anatomy was used to determine the approximate location of individual lesions.
Pre mortem MRI findings in fatal NPSLE were small focal white matter lesions (100%), cortical atrophy (64%), ventricular dilation (57%), cerebral edema (50%), diffuse white matter abnormalities (43%), focal atrophy (36%), cerebral infarction (29%), acute leukoencephalopathy (25%), intracranial hemorrhage (21%), and calcifications (7%). Microscopic findings in fatal NPSLE included global ischemic changes (57%), parenchymal edema (50%), microhemorrhages (43%), glial hyperplasia (43%), diffuse neuronal/axonal loss (36%), resolved cerebral infarction (33%), microthomboemboli (29%), blood vessel remodeling (29%), acute cerebral infarction (14%), acute macrohemorrhages (14%), and resolved intracranial hemorrhages (7%). Cortical atrophy and ventricular dilation seen by MRI predicted brain mass at autopsy (r = -0.72, p = 0.01, and r = -0.77, p =0.01, respectively). Cerebral autopsy findings, including infarction, cerebral edema, intracranial hemorrhage, calcifications, cysts, and focal atrophy were also predicted accurately by pre mortem MRI.
Brain lesions in NPSLE detected by MRI accurately represent serious underlying cerebrovascular and parenchymal brain injury on pathology.
PMCID: PMC3586567  PMID: 19880162
SLE; Neuropsychiatric; Magnetic Resonance; NPSLE; MRI; Autopsy

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