Axonal injury in the cerebral normal-appearing white matter of patients with multiple sclerosis is related to concurrent demyelination in lesions but not to concurrent demyelination in normal-appearing white matter.

Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B4.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.13). 02/2006; 29(2):637-42. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.07.017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We assessed axonal injury and demyelination in the cerebral normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) of MS patients in a pilot study using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging and quantitative magnetization transfer (MT) imaging. Resonance intensities of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) relative to creatine (Cr) were measured in a large central brain volume. NAA/Cr in NAWM was estimated by regression of the NAA/Cr in each voxel against white matter fraction and extrapolation to a white matter fraction of 1. The fractional size of the semi-solid pool (F) was obtained from the binary spin bath model of MT by computing the model parameters from multiple MT-weighted and relaxometry acquisitions. F in NAWM was significantly smaller in the patients [0.109 (0.009)] relative to controls [0.123 (0.007), P = 0.011], but did not differ between RR [0.1085] and SP [0.1087] patients [P > 0.99]. NAA/Cr and F in the NAWM were not correlated (r = 0.16, P > 0.7), mainly due to a lack of variation in F among patients. This may indicate a floor to the extent of myelin pathology that can occur in NAWM before a lesion appears, or that axonal damage is not strictly related to demyelination. The correlation between NAWM NAA/Cr and T2w lesion volume was not significant (P > 0.1). However, dividing the lesion volumes by the mean F in T2w lesions resulted in a quantity that correlated well with NAWM NAA/Cr (r = -0.78, P = 0.038), possibly reflecting the association of Wallerian degeneration in the NAWM with axonal transection associated with demyelination within lesions.

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