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Neuroimage. 2001 Apr;13(4):623-31.

Voxel-based morphometry of herpes simplex encephalitis.

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Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, Department of Neurology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) is a powerful tool for analyzing changes in gray or white matter density of the brain. By using an automated segmentation procedure and standardized parametric statistics it avoids biases inherent in operator-dependent morphological operations (J. Ashburner and K. J. Friston, 2000, NeuroImage 11, 805-821). Since its introduction in 1995, VBM has been used to examine anatomical changes in a variety of diseases associated with neurologic and psychiatric dysfunction. Given the power of this technique for discerning subtle anatomical changes, we wanted to assess its performance on brains with gross structural abnormalities. Such results could have implications regarding the difficulties to be faced when examining other types of distorted brains (e.g., brains with changes due to degenerative disease). This report describes the use of VBM for examining individual and group changes in gray matter concentration in five patients who had recovered from herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) compared with age- and sex-matched controls. Because HSE tends to affect a specific set of brain regions we thought that this would (1) provide an opportunity to assess the anatomical face validity of VBM, (2) allow us to assess the problems of this technique when used on distorted brains, and (3) provide an in vivo demonstration of the gray matter changes due to HSE. We found that, despite problems in normalizing and segmenting these severely distorted brains, VBM was able to identify correctly a number of the regional gray matter abnormalities in HSE. The results, while consistent with the well-known histopathology of the disease, also demonstrate potential difficulties with this method.

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