Brain Connect 2013 7;3(3):255-64. Epub 2013 May 7.
Division of Neuroradiology, Department of Radiology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory central nervous system disorder with a neurodegenerative component. While in the past, MS has been predominantly viewed as a white matter (WM) disease, gray matter (GM) pathology receives increasing attention in MS research. In this study, we tested hypothesis-free for a possible spatial relationship between cortical volume changes and disturbed integrity of projecting WM tracts. We used voxel-based morphometry (VBM), lesion probability maps (LPM), and probabilistic tractography to compare brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans obtained at 3 Tesla of 15 low disabled MS patients with 15 matched healthy controls (HCs). Areas of decreased cortical volume in the patients identified by VBM were used as seeds for tractography. Volume in two cortical areas in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the left lateral occipital cortex (LOC) was reduced in patients compared to HCs. Starting from the IFG-region, tractography suggested impaired connections between left and right portions of the frontal lobe in the patients. Using the LOC as a seed, in patients, the left inferior longitudinal and fronto-occipital pathways appeared disintegrated compared to HCs. Swapping the seeds to homologous contralateral areas showed similar results for frontal, but different results for occipital brain areas. This at least partly could be explained by differential interference with WM lesions. These findings suggest a regional dependence between cortical GM and WM tract alterations in MS patients. While confirmation in larger and more heterogenic samples is needed, this study indicates that combining several MRI methods (VBM, LPM, and Probabilistic Tractography) may provide important insights into interacting processes related to the fiber tract and GM changes in MS.