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Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Feb;36(2):603-18. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22650. Epub 2014 Oct 8.

Functional brain networks: linking thalamic atrophy to clinical disability in multiple sclerosis, a multimodal fMRI and MEG study.

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Department of Neurology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Thalamic atrophy is known to be one of the most important predictors for clinical dysfunction in multiple sclerosis (MS). As the thalamus is highly connected to many cortical areas, this suggests that thalamic atrophy is associated with disruption of cortical functional networks. We investigated this thalamo-cortical system to explain the presence of physical and cognitive problems in MS. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) were performed in 86 MS patients and 21 healthy subjects. We computed cortical functional networks for fMRI and MEG by respectively the Pearson's correlation coefficient and the phase lag index using the same automated anatomical labeling atlas for both modalities. Thalamo-cortical functional connectivity was only estimated using fMRI. We computed conventional network metrics such as clustering coefficient and path length and analyzed the minimum spanning tree (MST), a subnetwork and backbone of the original network. MS patients showed reduced thalamic volumes and increased thalamo-cortical connectivity. MEG cortical functional networks showed a lower level of integration in MS in terms of the MST, whereas fMRI cortical networks did not differ between groups. Lower integration of MEG cortical functional networks was both related to thalamic atrophy as well as to increased thalamo-cortical functional connectivity in fMRI and to worse cognitive and clinical status. This study demonstrated for the first time that thalamic atrophy is associated with global disruption of cortical functional networks in MS and this global disruption of network activity was related to worse cognitive and clinical function in MS. Hum Brain Mapp 36:603-618, 2015.


MEG; fMRI; functional connectivity; functional networks; multiple sclerosis; thalamic atrophy

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