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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 2;12(6):e0178371. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178371. eCollection 2017.

Multimodal assessment of white matter tracts in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
Department of Radiology, Division of Neuroradiology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Several quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques have been proposed to investigate microstructural tissue changes in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), magnetization transfer imaging, and R2* mapping. Here, in this study, we compared these techniques with regard to their capability for detecting ALS related white matter (WM) changes in the brain and their association with clinical findings. We examined 27 ALS patients and 35 age-matched healthy controls. MRI was performed at 3T, after which we analyzed the diffusion properties, the magnetization transfer ratio (MTR), and the effective transversal relaxation rate R2* in 18 WM tracts that were obtained by a fully automated segmentation technique. ALS patients, especially with a bulbar onset, showed a bilateral increase in radial and mean diffusivity, as well as a reduction in fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tract (CST), and diffusion changes in the parietal and temporal superior longitudinal fasciculus. A reduction of the MTR was found in both CSTs and an R2* reduction was seen only in the left CST. Tract-specific diffusion properties were not related to clinical status in a cross-sectional manner but demonstrated some association with disease progression over three subsequent months. DTI reveals more widespread WM tissue changes than MTR and R2*. These changes are not restricted to the CST, but affect also other WM tracts (especially in patients with bulbar onset), and are associated with the short term course of the disease.

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