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J Neurol Sci. 2011 Aug 15;307(1-2):106-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2011.04.028. Epub 2011 May 25.

Brain axonal and myelin evaluation in heart failure.

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Department of Neurobiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1763, USA.


Although gray matter injury appears in heart failure (HF) patients, the presence, extent, and nature of axonal injury impacting on cardiovascular regulation and other functions is unclear. We performed diffusion tensor imaging (3.0-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging scanner) in 16 HF and 26 control subjects, and assessed whole-brain water diffusion parallel (axial diffusivity; axonal status) and perpendicular (radial diffusivity; myelin changes) to fibers. Regions with increased axial diffusivity only, indicating impaired axonal integrity, emerged in cardiovascular, hedonic, and pain regulatory areas, including basal forebrain, hypothalamic and limbic projections through the medial forebrain bundle and raphe magnus projections to the medulla and cerebellum. Other fiber paths between sites implicated in cognition, including limbic, basal-ganglia, thalamic, internal capsule, and corpus callosum were also altered. Sites with increased radial diffusivity only, indicating myelin breakdown, appeared in the corpus callosum, cingulate, and temporal, parietal, occipital, and frontal regions. Both higher axial and radial diffusivity, indicating loss of tissue integrity, appeared in parietal and occipital lobes, limbic regions, insula, internal capsule, cerebellum, and dorsolateral medulla. Axons and myelin are altered in HF, likely resulting from ischemic/hypoxic processes acting chronically and sub-acutely, respectively. The alterations would contribute to the multiple autonomic and neuropsychological symptoms found in HF.

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