White matter development in early puberty: a longitudinal volumetric and diffusion tensor imaging twin study.
ABSTRACT: White matter microstructure and volume show synchronous developmental patterns in children. White matter volume increases considerably during development. Fractional anisotropy, a measure for white matter microstructural directionality, also increases with age. Development of white matter volume and development of white matter microstructure seem to go hand in hand. The extent to which the same or different genetic and/or environmental factors drive these two aspects of white matter maturation is currently unknown. We mapped changes in white matter volume, surface area and diffusion parameters in mono- and dizygotic twins who were scanned at age 9 (203 individuals) and again at age 12 (126 individuals). Over the three-year interval, white matter volume (+6.0%) and surface area (+1.7%) increased, fiber bundles expanded (most pronounced in the left arcuate fasciculus and splenium), and fractional anisotropy increased (+3.0%). Genes influenced white matter volume (heritability ~85%), surface area (~85%), and fractional anisotropy (locally 7% to 50%) at both ages. Finally, volumetric white matter growth was negatively correlated with fractional anisotropy increase (r = -0.62) and this relationship was driven by environmental factors. In children who showed the most pronounced white matter growth, fractional anisotropy increased the least and vice-versa. Thus, white matter development in childhood may reflect a process of both expansion and fiber optimization.
Project description:Studies in adults indicate that white matter microstructure, assessed with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), has high heritability. Little is known about genetic and environmental influences on DTI parameters, measured along fiber tracts particularly, in early childhood. In the present study, we report comprehensive heritability data of white matter microstructure fractional anisotropy (FA), radial diffusion (RD), and axial diffusion (AD) along 47 fiber tracts using the quantitative tractography in a large sample of neonatal twins (n=356). We found significant genetic influences in almost all tracts with similar heritabilities for FA, RD, and AD as well as positive relationships between these parameters and heritability. In a single tract analysis, genetic influences along the length of the tract were highly variable. These findings suggest that at birth, there is marked heterogeneity of genetic influences of white matter microstructure within white matter tracts. This study provides a basis for future studies of developmental changes in genetic and environmental influences during early childhood, a period of rapid development that likely plays a major role in individual differences in white matter structure and function.
Project description:Multiple sclerosis leads to diffuse damage of the central nervous system, affecting also the normal-appearing white matter. Demyelination and axonal degeneration reduce regional fractional anisotropy in normal-appearing white matter, which can be routinely mapped with diffusion tensor imaging. However, the standard fractional anisotropy metric is also sensitive to physiological variations in orientation dispersion of white matter fibres. This complicates the detection of disease-related damage in large parts of cerebral white matter where microstructure physiologically displays a high degree of fibre dispersion. To resolve this ambiguity, we employed a novel tensor-valued encoding method for diffusion MRI, which yields a microscopic fractional anisotropy metric that is unaffected by regional variations in orientation dispersion. In 26 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, 14 patients with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis and 27 age-matched healthy controls, we compared standard fractional anisotropy mapping with the novel microscopic fractional anisotropy mapping method, focusing on normal-appearing white matter. Mean microscopic fractional anisotropy and standard fractional anisotropy of normal-appearing white matter were significantly reduced in both patient groups relative to healthy controls, but microscopic fractional anisotropy yielded a better reflection of disease-related white-matter alterations. The reduction in mean microscopic fractional anisotropy showed a significant positive linear relationship with physical disability, as reflected by the expanded disability status scale. Mean reduction of microscopic fractional anisotropy in normal-appearing white matter also scaled positively with individual cognitive dysfunction, as measured with the symbol digit modality test. Mean microscopic fractional anisotropy reduction in normal-appearing white matter also showed a positive relationship with total white-matter lesion load as well as lesion load in specific tract systems. None of these relationships between normal-appearing white-matter microstructure and clinical, cognitive or structural measures emerged when using mean fractional anisotropy. Together, the results provide converging evidence that microscopic fractional anisotropy mapping substantially advances the assessment of cerebral white matter in multiple sclerosis by disentangling microstructure damage from variations in physiological fibre orientation dispersion at the stage of data acquisition. Since tensor-valued encoding can be implemented in routine diffusion MRI, microscopic fractional anisotropy mapping bears considerable potential for the future assessment of disease progression in normal-appearing white matter in both relapsing-remitting and progressive forms of multiple sclerosis as well as other white-matter-related brain diseases.
Project description:Gliomas grow and invade along white matter fiber tracts. This study assessed the effects of motor cortex gliomas on the cerebral white matter fiber bundle skeleton. The motor cortex glioma group included 21 patients, and the control group comprised 14 healthy volunteers. Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging-based 3.0 T diffusion tensor imaging. We used tract-based spatial statistics to analyze the characteristics of white matter fiber bundles. The left and right motor cortex glioma groups were analyzed separately from the control group. Results were statistically corrected by the family-wise error rate. Compared with the controls, patients with left motor cortex gliomas exhibited significantly reduced fractional anisotropy and an increased radial diffusivity in the corpus callosum. The alterations in mean diffusivity (MD) and the axial diffusivity (AD) were widely distributed throughout the brain. Furthermore, atlas-based analysis showed elevated MD and AD in the contralateral superior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Motor cortex gliomas significantly affect white matter fiber microstructure proximal to the tumor. The range of affected white matter fibers may extend beyond the tumor-affected area. These changes are primarily related to early stage tumor invasion.
Project description:This case series assesses white matter microstructure of the cerebellar peduncles in 4 adolescents born preterm with enlarged ventricles and reduced white matter volume in the cerebrum but no apparent injury to the cerebellum. Subjects (ages 12-17 years, gestational age 26-32 weeks, birth weight 825-2211 g) were compared to a normative sample of 19 full-term controls (9-17 years, mean gestational age 39 weeks, mean birth weight 3154 g). Tract profiles for each of the cerebellar peduncles were generated by calculating fractional anisotropy at 30 points along the central portion of each tract. One or more case subjects exhibited higher fractional anisotropy beyond the 90th percentile in the inferior, middle, and superior cerebellar peduncles. Findings demonstrate that differences in cerebellar white matter microstructure can be detected in the absence of macrostructural cerebellar abnormalities.
Project description:Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a key role in learning and memory, but its effects on the fiber architecture of the living brain are unknown. We genotyped 455 healthy adult twins and their non-twin siblings (188 males/267 females; age: 23.7±2.1 years, mean±SD) and scanned them with high angular resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), to assess how the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism affects white matter microstructure. By applying genetic association analysis to every 3D point in the brain images, we found that the Val-BDNF genetic variant was associated with lower white matter integrity in the splenium of the corpus callosum, left optic radiation, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and superior corona radiata. Normal BDNF variation influenced the association between subjects' performance intellectual ability (as measured by Object Assembly subtest) and fiber integrity (as measured by fractional anisotropy; FA) in the callosal splenium, and pons. BDNF gene may affect the intellectual performance by modulating the white matter development. This combination of genetic association analysis and large-scale diffusion imaging directly relates a specific gene to the fiber microstructure of the living brain and to human intelligence.
Project description:Identifying genes that contribute to white matter microstructure should provide insights into the neurobiological processes that regulate white matter development, plasticity and pathology. We detected five significant SNPs using genome-wide association analysis on a global measure of fractional anisotropy in 776 individuals from large extended pedigrees. Genetic correlations and genome-wide association results indicated that the genetic signal was largely homogeneous across white matter regions. Using RNA transcripts derived from lymphocytes in the same individuals, we identified two genes (GNA13 and CCDC91) that are likely to be cis-regulated by top SNPs, and whose expression levels were also genetically correlated with fractional anisotropy. A transcript of HTR7 was phenotypically associated with FA, and was associated with an intronic genome-wide significant SNP. These results encourage further research in the mechanisms by which GNA13, HTR7 and CCDC91 influence brain structure, and emphasize a role for g-protein signaling in the development and maintenance of white matter microstructure in health and disease.
Project description:Friedreich ataxia is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder with reported abnormalities in cerebellar, brainstem, and cerebral white matter. White matter structure can be measured using in vivo neuroimaging indices sensitive to different white matter features. For the first time, we examined the relative sensitivity and relationship between multiple white matter indices in Friedreich ataxia to more richly characterize disease expression and infer possible mechanisms underlying the observed white matter abnormalities. Diffusion-tensor, magnetization transfer, and T1-weighted structural images were acquired from 31 individuals with Friedreich ataxia and 36 controls. Six white matter indices were extracted: fractional anisotropy, diffusivity (mean, axial, radial), magnetization transfer ratio (microstructure), and volume (macrostructure). For each index, whole-brain voxel-wise between-group comparisons and correlations with disease severity, onset age, and gene triplet-repeat length were undertaken. Correlations between pairs of indices were assessed in the Friedreich ataxia cohort. Spatial similarities in the voxel-level pattern of between-group differences across the indices were also assessed. Microstructural abnormalities were maximal in cerebellar and brainstem regions, but evident throughout the brain, while macroscopic abnormalities were restricted to the brainstem. Poorer microstructure and reduced macrostructural volume correlated with greater disease severity and earlier onset, particularly in peri-dentate nuclei and brainstem regions. Microstructural and macrostructural abnormalities were largely independent. Reduced fractional anisotropy was most strongly associated with axial diffusivity in cerebral tracts, and magnetization transfer in cerebellar tracts. Multiple mechanisms likely underpin white matter abnormalities in Friedreich ataxia, with differential impacts in cerebellar and cerebral pathways.
Project description:Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is amongst the simplest mathematical models available for diffusion magnetic resonance imaging, yet still by far the most used one. Despite the success of DTI as an imaging tool for white matter fibers, its anatomical underpinnings on a microstructural basis remain unclear. In this study, we used 65 myelin-stained sections of human premotor cortex to validate modeled fiber orientations and oft used microstructure-sensitive scalar measures of DTI on the level of individual voxels. We performed this validation on high spatial resolution diffusion MRI acquisitions investigating both white and gray matter. We found a very good agreement between DTI and myelin orientations with the majority of voxels showing angular differences less than 10°. The agreement was strongest in white matter, particularly in unidirectional fiber pathways. In gray matter, the agreement was good in the deeper layers highlighting radial fiber directions even at lower fractional anisotropy (FA) compared to white matter. This result has potentially important implications for tractography algorithms applied to high resolution diffusion MRI data if the aim is to move across the gray/white matter boundary. We found strong relationships between myelin microstructure and DTI-based microstructure-sensitive measures. High FA values were linked to high myelin density and a sharply tuned histological orientation profile. Conversely, high values of mean diffusivity (MD) were linked to bimodal or diffuse orientation distributions and low myelin density. At high spatial resolution, DTI-based measures can be highly sensitive to white and gray matter microstructure despite being relatively unspecific to concrete microarchitectural aspects.
Project description:BACKGROUND:While gross measures of brain structure have shown alterations with increasing body mass index (BMI), the extent and nature of such changes has varied substantially across studies. Here, we sought to determine whether small-scale morphometric measures might prove more sensitive and reliable than larger scale measures and whether they might offer a valuable opportunity to link cortical changes to underlying white matter changes. To examine this, we explored the association of BMI with millimetre-scale Gaussian curvature, in addition to standard measures of morphometry such as cortical thickness, surface area and mean curvature. We also assessed the volume and integrity of the white matter, using white matter signal intensity and fractional anisotropy (FA). We hypothesised that BMI would be linked to small-scale changes in Gaussian curvature and that this phenomenon would be mediated by changes in the integrity of the underlying white matter. METHODS:The association of global measures of T1-weighted cortical morphometry with BMI was examined using linear regression and mediation analyses in two independent groups of healthy young to middle aged human subjects (n1 = 52, n2 = 202). In a third dataset of (n3 = 897), which included diffusion tensor images, we sought to replicate the significant associations established in the first two datasets, and examine the potential mechanistic link between BMI-associated cortical changes and global FA. RESULTS:Gaussian curvature of the white matter surface showed a significant, positive association with BMI across all three independent datasets. This effect was mediated by a negative association between the integrity of the white matter and BMI. CONCLUSIONS:Increasing BMI is associated with changes in white matter microstructure in young to middle-aged healthy adults. Our results are consistent with a model whereby BMI-linked cortical changes are mediated by the effects of BMI on white matter microstructure.
Project description:AIMS/HYPOTHESES:In adults, type 2 diabetes and obesity have been associated with structural brain changes, even in the absence of dementia. Some evidence suggested similar changes in adolescents with type 2 diabetes but comparisons with a non-obese control group have been lacking. The aim of the current study was to examine differences in microstructure of gray and white matter between adolescents with type 2 diabetes, obese adolescents and healthy weight adolescents. METHODS:Magnetic resonance imaging data were collected from 15 adolescents with type 2 diabetes, 21 obese adolescents and 22 healthy weight controls. Volumetric differences in the gray matter between the three groups were examined using voxel based morphology, while tract based spatial statistics was used to examine differences in the microstructure of the white matter. RESULTS:Adolescents with type 2 diabetes and obese adolescents had reduced gray matter volume in the right hippocampus, left putamen and caudate, bilateral amygdala and left thalamus compared to healthy weight controls. Type 2 diabetes was also associated with significant regional changes in fractional anisotropy within the corpus callosum, fornix, left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, left uncinate, left internal and external capsule. Fractional anisotropy reductions within these tracts were explained by increased radial diffusivity, which may suggest demyelination of white matter tracts. Mean diffusivity and axial diffusivity did not differ between the groups. CONCLUSION/INTERPRETATION:Our data shows that adolescent obesity alone results in reduced gray matter volume and that adolescent type 2 diabetes is associated with both white and gray matter abnormalities.