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1.  Structural and Functional Brain Changes beyond Visual System in Patients with Advanced Glaucoma 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105931.
In order to test the hypothesis that in primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), an important cause of irreversible blindness, a spreading of neurodegeneration occurs through the brain, we performed multimodal MRI and subsequent whole-brain explorative voxelwise analyses in 13 advanced POAG patients and 12 age-matched normal controls (NC). Altered integrity (decreased fractional anisotropy or increased diffusivities) of white matter (WM) tracts was found not only along the visual pathway of POAG but also in nonvisual WM tracts (superior longitudinal fascicle, anterior thalamic radiation, corticospinal tract, middle cerebellar peduncle). POAG patients also showed brain atrophy in both visual cortex and other distant grey matter (GM) regions (frontoparietal cortex, hippocampi and cerebellar cortex), decreased functional connectivity (FC) in visual, working memory and dorsal attention networks and increased FC in visual and executive networks. In POAG, abnormalities in structure and FC within and outside visual system correlated with visual field parameters in the poorer performing eyes, thus emphasizing their clinical relevance. Altogether, this represents evidence that a vision disorder such as POAG can be considered a widespread neurodegenerative condition.
PMCID: PMC4146554  PMID: 25162716
2.  White Matter Development in Adolescence: Diffusion Tensor Imaging and Meta-Analytic Results 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2012;38(6):1308-1317.
In light of the evidence for brain white matter (WM) abnormalities in schizophrenia, study of normal WM maturation in adolescence may provide critical insights relevant to the neurodevelopment of the disorder. Voxel-wise diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies have consistently demonstrated increases in fractional anisotropy (FA), a putative measure of WM integrity, from childhood into adolescence. However, the WM tracts that show FA increases have been variable across studies. Here, we aimed to assess which WM tracts show the most pronounced changes across adolescence.
DTI was performed in 78 healthy subjects aged 8–21 years, and voxel-wise analysis conducted using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). In addition, we performed the first meta-analysis of TBSS studies on WM development in adolescence.
In our sample, we observed bilateral increases in FA with age, which were most significant in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), inferior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and anterior thalamic radiation. These findings were confirmed by the meta-analysis, and FA increase in the bilateral SLF was the most consistent finding across studies. Moreover, in our sample, FA of the bilateral SLF showed a positive association with verbal working memory performance and partially mediated increases in verbal fluency as a function of increasing age.
These data highlight increasing connectivity in the SLF during adolescence. In light of evidence for compromised SLF integrity in high-risk and first-episode patients, these data suggest that abnormal maturation of the SLF during adolescence may be a key target in the neurodevelopment of schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC3494037  PMID: 22499780
adolescence; development; diffusion tensor imaging; superior longitudinal fasciculus; verbal fluency; working memory
3.  Distinction of seropositive NMO spectrum disorder and MS brain lesion distribution 
Neurology  2013;80(14):1330-1337.
Neuromyelitis optica and its spectrum disorder (NMOSD) can present similarly to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). Using a quantitative lesion mapping approach, this research aimed to identify differences in MRI brain lesion distribution between aquaporin-4 antibody–positive NMOSD and RRMS, and to test their diagnostic potential.
Clinical brain MRI sequences for 44 patients with aquaporin-4 antibody–positive NMOSD and 50 patients with RRMS were examined for the distribution and morphology of brain lesions. T2 lesion maps were created for each subject allowing the quantitative comparison of the 2 conditions with lesion probability and voxel-wise analysis.
Sixty-three percent of patients with NMOSD had brain lesions and of these 27% were diagnostic of multiple sclerosis. Patients with RRMS were significantly more likely to have lesions adjacent to the body of the lateral ventricle than patients with NMOSD. Direct comparison of the probability distributions and the morphologic attributes of the lesions in each group identified criteria of “at least 1 lesion adjacent to the body of the lateral ventricle and in the inferior temporal lobe; or the presence of a subcortical U-fiber lesion; or a Dawson's finger-type lesion,” which could distinguish patients with multiple sclerosis from those with NMOSD with 92% sensitivity, 96% specificity, 98% positive predictive value, and 86% negative predictive value.
Careful inspection of the distribution and morphology of MRI brain lesions can distinguish RRMS and NMOSD.
PMCID: PMC3656462  PMID: 23486868
4.  Relevance of Brain Lesion Location to Cognition in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e44826.
To assess the relationship between cognition and brain white matter (WM) lesion distribution and frequency in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR MS).
MRI-based T2 lesion probability map (LPM) was used to assess the relevance of brain lesion location for cognitive impairment in a group of 142 consecutive patients with RRMS. Significance of voxelwise analyses was p<0.05, cluster-corrected for multiple comparisons. The Rao Brief Repeatable Battery was administered at the time of brain MRI to categorize the MS population into cognitively preserved (CP) and cognitively impaired (CI).
Out of 142 RRMS, 106 were classified as CP and 36 as CI. Although the CI group had greater WM lesion volume than the CP group (p = 0.001), T2 lesions tended to be less widespread across the WM. The peak of lesion frequency was almost twice higher in CI (61% in the forceps major) than in CP patients (37% in the posterior corona radiata). The voxelwise analysis confirmed that lesion frequency was higher in CI than in CP patients with significant bilateral clusters in the forceps major and in the splenium of the corpus callosum (p<0.05, corrected). Low scores of the Symbol Digit Modalities Test correlated with higher lesion frequency in these WM regions.
Overall these results suggest that in MS patients, areas relevant for cognition lie mostly in the commissural fiber tracts. This supports the notion of a functional (multiple) disconnection between grey matter structures, secondary to damage located in specific WM areas, as one of the most important mechanisms leading to cognitive impairment in MS.
PMCID: PMC3489883  PMID: 23144775
5.  Zellweger Spectrum Disorder with Mild Phenotype Caused by PEX2 Gene Mutations 
JIMD Reports  2012;6:43-46.
The Zellweger spectrum disorders (ZSDs) are known to be severe disorders with onset in the newborn period or later in childhood, frequently resulting in death during childhood or adolescence. Here, we report a case of ZSD due to mutations in the PEX2 gene, with very mild phenotype. A 51-year-old Italian man was referred to us because of a clinical picture characterized by ataxia, areflexia, nystagmus, and strabismus, with childhood onset and slowly progressive course. The patient showed no cognitive impairment. Neurological examination revealed gait ataxia, dysarthria, dysmetria, areflexia, and bilateral pes cavus. Nerve conduction studies indicated a severe axonal sensorimotor polyneuropathy. Brain MRI showed marked cerebellar atrophy and absence of white matter involvement. MR spectroscopy uncovered a decreased N-acetyl aspartate peak. Biochemical analyses suggested a mild peroxisomal defect. Sequence analysis of the PEX2 gene identified two heterozygous mutations. The clinical phenotype of our patient differs from previously reported ZSD patients with PEX2 gene mutations and suggests that genetic screening of PEX2 is warranted in children and adults with otherwise unexplained autosomal recessive ataxia. MRI findings diverged from the “classic” spectrum observed in ZSDs. The moderate impairment in peroxisome biogenesis seems to affect predominantly neuronal cells in cerebellum, leading to cerebellar atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3565677  PMID: 23430938
6.  Modeling the Distribution of New MRI Cortical Lesions in Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Studies 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26712.
Recent studies have shown the relevance of the cerebral grey matter involvement in multiple sclerosis (MS). The number of new cortical lesions (CLs), detected by specific MRI sequences, has the potential to become a new research outcome in longitudinal MS studies. Aim of this study is to define the statistical model better describing the distribution of new CLs developed over 12 and 24 months in patients with relapsing-remitting (RR) MS.
Four different models were tested (the Poisson, the Negative Binomial, the zero-inflated Poisson and the zero-inflated Negative Binomial) on a group of 191 RRMS patients untreated or treated with 3 different disease modifying therapies. Sample size for clinical trials based on this new outcome measure were estimated by a bootstrap resampling technique.
The zero-inflated Poisson model gave the best fit, according to the Akaike criterion to the observed distribution of new CLs developed over 12 and 24 months both in each treatment group and in the whole RRMS patients group adjusting for treatment effect.
The sample size calculations based on the zero-inflated Poisson model indicate that randomized clinical trials using this new MRI marker as an outcome are feasible.
PMCID: PMC3197685  PMID: 22028937
7.  Improving the Characterization of Radiologically Isolated Syndrome Suggestive of Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19452.
To improve the characterization of asymptomatic subjects with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities highly suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition named as “radiologically isolated syndrome” (RIS).
Quantitative MRI metrics such as brain volumes and magnetization transfer (MT) were assessed in 19 subjects previously classified as RIS, 20 demographically-matched relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients and 20 healthy controls (HC). Specific measures were: white matter (WM) lesion volumes (LV), total and regional brain volumes, and MT ratio (MTr) in lesions, normal-appearing WM (NAWM) and cortex.
LV was similar in RIS and RRMS, without differences in distribution and frequency at lesion mapping. Brain volumes were similarly lower in RRMS and RIS than in HC (p<0.001). Lesional-MTr was lower in RRMS than in RIS (p = 0.048); NAWM-MTr and cortical-MTr were similar in RIS and HC and lower (p<0.01) in RRMS. These values were particularly lower in RRMS than in RIS in the sensorimotor and memory networks. A multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that 13/19 RIS had ≥70% probability of being classified as RRMS on the basis of their brain volume and lesional-MTr values.
Macroscopic brain damage was similar in RIS and RRMS. However, the subtle tissue damage detected by MTr was milder in RIS than in RRMS in clinically relevant brain regions, suggesting an explanation for the lack of clinical manifestations of subjects with RIS. This new approach could be useful for narrowing down the RIS individuals with a high risk of progression to MS.
PMCID: PMC3084867  PMID: 21559385
8.  Age-related changes in grey and white matter structure throughout adulthood 
Neuroimage  2010;51(3-2):943-951.
Normal ageing is associated with gradual brain atrophy. Determining spatial and temporal patterns of change can help shed light on underlying mechanisms. Neuroimaging provides various measures of brain structure that can be used to assess such age-related change but studies to date have typically considered single imaging measures. Although there is consensus on the notion that brain structure deteriorates with age, evidence on the precise time course and spatial distribution of changes is mixed. We assessed grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) structure in a group of 66 adults aged between 23 and 81. Multimodal imaging measures included voxel-based morphometry (VBM)-style analysis of GM and WM volume and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics of WM microstructure. We found widespread reductions in GM volume from middle age onwards but earlier reductions in GM were detected in frontal cortex. Widespread age-related deterioration in WM microstructure was detected from young adulthood onwards. WM decline was detected earlier and more sensitively using DTI-based measures of microstructure than using markers of WM volume derived from conventional T1-weighted imaging.
PMCID: PMC2896477  PMID: 20211265

Results 1-8 (8)