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Patterns of white matter damage are non-random and associated with cognitive function in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis

Meijer, K.A., Cercignani, M., Muhlert, Nils, Sethi, V., Chard, D., Geurts, J.J.G. and Ciccarelli, O. 2016. Patterns of white matter damage are non-random and associated with cognitive function in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. NeuroImage: Clinical 12 , pp. 123-131. 10.1016/j.nicl.2016.06.009

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In multiple sclerosis (MS), white matter damage is thought to contribute to cognitive dysfunction, which is especially prominent in secondary progressive MS (SPMS). While studies in healthy subjects have revealed patterns of correlated fractional anisotropy (FA) across white matter tracts, little is known about the underlying patterns of white matter damage in MS. In the present study, we aimed to map the SPMS-related covariance patterns of microstructural white matter changes, and investigated whether or not these patterns were associated with cognitive dysfunction. Diffusion MRI was acquired from 30 SPMS patients and 32 healthy controls (HC). A tensor model was fitted and FA maps were processed using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) in order to obtain a skeletonised map for each subject. The skeletonised FA maps of patients only were decomposed into 18 spatially independent components (ICs) using independent component analysis. Comprehensive cognitive assessment was conducted to evaluate five cognitive domains. Correlations between cognitive performance and (1) severity of FA abnormalities of the extracted ICs (i.e. z-scores relative to FA values of HC) and (2) IC load (i.e. FA covariance of a particular IC) were examined. SPMS patients showed lower FA values of all examined patterns of correlated FA (i.e. spatially independent components) than HC (p < 0.01). Tracts visually assigned to the supratentorial commissural class were most severely damaged (z = − 3.54; p < 0.001). Reduced FA was significantly correlated with reduced IC load (i.e. FA covariance) (r = 0.441; p < 0.05). Lower mean FA and component load of the supratentorial projection tracts and limbic association tracts classes were associated with worse cognitive function, including executive function, working memory and verbal memory. Despite the presence of white matter damage, it was possible to reveal patterns of FA covariance across SPMS patients. This could indicate that white matter tracts belonging to the same cluster, and thus with similar characteristics, tend to follow similar trends during neurodegeneration. Furthermore, these underlying FA patterns might help to explain cognitive dysfunction in SPMS.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 2213-1582
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 July 2017
Date of Acceptance: 11 June 2016
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2017 14:38

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