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Neuroimage. 2007 Nov 1;38(2):271-9. Epub 2007 Aug 15.

Multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging analysis of the corticospinal tract in multiple sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, 600 N Wolfe St, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.



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 pathway--the corticospinal tract--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 T. 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.

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