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Relationship of grey and white matter abnormalities with distance from the surface of the brain in multiple sclerosis

Abstract

Objective To assess the association between proximity to the inner (ventricular and aqueductal) and outer (pial) surfaces of the brain and the distribution of normal appearing white matter (NAWM) and grey matter (GM) abnormalities, and white matter (WM) lesions, in multiple sclerosis (MS).

Methods 67 people with relapse-onset MS and 30 healthy controls were included in the study. Volumetric T1 images and high-resolution (1 mm3) magnetisation transfer ratio (MTR) images were acquired and segmented into 12 bands between the inner and outer surfaces of the brain. The first and last bands were discarded to limit partial volume effects with cerebrospinal fluid. MTR values were computed for all bands in supratentorial NAWM, cerebellar NAWM and brainstem NA tissue, and deep and cortical GM. Band WM lesion volumes were also measured.

Results Proximity to the ventricular surfaces was associated with progressively lower MTR values in the MS group but not in controls in supratentorial and cerebellar NAWM, brainstem NA and in deep and cortical GM. The density of WM lesions was associated with proximity to the ventricles only in the supratentorial compartment, and no link was found with distance from the pial surfaces.

Conclusions In MS, MTR abnormalities in NAWM and GM are related to distance from the inner and outer surfaces of the brain, and this suggests that there is a common factor underlying their spatial distribution. A similar pattern was not found for WM lesions, raising the possibility that different factors promote their formation.

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