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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience