Long-range connections are more severely damaged and relevant for cognition in multiple sclerosis.
ABSTRACT: An efficient network such as the human brain features a combination of global integration of information, driven by long-range connections, and local processing involving short-range connections. Whether these connections are equally damaged in multiple sclerosis is unknown, as is their relevance for cognitive impairment and brain function. Therefore, we cross-sectionally investigated the association between damage to short- and long-range connections with structural network efficiency, the functional connectome and cognition. From the Amsterdam multiple sclerosis cohort, 133 patients (age = 54.2 ± 9.6) with long-standing multiple sclerosis and 48 healthy controls (age = 50.8 ± 7.0) with neuropsychological testing and MRI were included. Structural connectivity was estimated from diffusion tensor images using probabilistic tractography (MRtrix 3.0) between pairs of brain regions. Structural connections were divided into short- (length < quartile 1) and long-range (length > quartile 3) connections, based on the mean distribution of tract lengths in healthy controls. To determine the severity of damage within these connections, (i) fractional anisotropy as a measure for integrity; (ii) total number of fibres; and (iii) percentage of tract affected by lesions were computed for each connecting tract and averaged for short- and long-range connections separately. To investigate the impact of damage in these connections for structural network efficiency, global efficiency was computed. Additionally, resting-state functional connectivity was computed between each pair of brain regions, after artefact removal with FMRIB's ICA-based X-noiseifier. The functional connectivity similarity index was computed by correlating individual functional connectivity matrices with an average healthy control connectivity matrix. Our results showed that the structural network had a reduced efficiency and integrity in multiple sclerosis relative to healthy controls (both P < 0.05). The long-range connections showed the largest reduction in fractional anisotropy (z = -1.03, P < 0.001) and total number of fibres (z = -0.44, P < 0.01), whereas in the short-range connections only fractional anisotropy was affected (z = -0.34, P = 0.03). Long-range connections also demonstrated a higher percentage of tract affected by lesions than short-range connections, independent of tract length (P < 0.001). Damage to long-range connections was more strongly related to structural network efficiency and cognition (fractional anisotropy: r = 0.329 and r = 0.447. number of fibres r = 0.321 and r = 0.278. and percentage of lesions: r = -0.219; r = -0.426, respectively) than damage to short-range connections. Only damage to long-distance connections correlated with a more abnormal functional network (fractional anisotropy: r = 0.226). Our findings indicate that long-range connections are more severely affected by multiple sclerosis-specific damage than short-range connections. Moreover compared to short-range connections, damage to long-range connections better explains network efficiency and cognition.
Project description:Preterm infants are at high risk of neurodevelopmental impairment, which may be due to altered development of brain connectivity. We aimed to (i) assess structural brain development from 25 to 45 weeks gestational age (GA) using graph theoretical approaches and (ii) test the hypothesis that preterm birth results in altered white matter network topology. Sixty-five infants underwent MRI between 25<sup>+3</sup> and 45<sup>+6</sup> weeks GA. Structural networks were constructed using constrained spherical deconvolution tractography and were weighted by measures of white matter microstructure (fractional anisotropy, neurite density and orientation dispersion index). We observed regional differences in brain maturation, with connections to and from deep grey matter showing most rapid developmental changes during this period. Intra-frontal, frontal to cingulate, frontal to caudate and inter-hemispheric connections matured more slowly. We demonstrated a core of key connections that was not affected by GA at birth. However, local connectivity involving thalamus, cerebellum, superior frontal lobe, cingulate gyrus and short range cortico-cortical connections was related to the degree of prematurity and contributed to altered global topology of the structural brain network. The relative preservation of core connections at the expense of local connections may support more effective use of impaired white matter reserve following preterm birth.
Project description:Pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (POMS) may represent a model of vulnerability to damage occurring during a period of active maturation of the human brain. Whereas adaptive mechanisms seem to take place in the POMS brain in the short-medium term, natural history studies have shown that these patients reach irreversible disability, despite slower progression, at a significantly younger age than adult-onset MS (AOMS) patients. We tested for the first time whether significant brain alterations already occurred in POMS patients in their early adulthood and with no or minimal disability (n?=?15) in comparison with age- and disability-matched AOMS patients (n?=?14) and to normal controls (NC, n?=?20). We used a multimodal MRI approach by modeling, using FSL, voxelwise measures of microstructural integrity of white matter tracts and gray matter volumes with those of intra- and internetwork functional connectivity (FC) (analysis of variance, p???0.01, corrected for multiple comparisons across space). POMS patients showed, when compared with both NC and AOMS patients, altered measures of diffusion tensor imaging (reduced fractional anisotropy and/or increased diffusivities) and higher probability of lesion occurrence in a clinically eloquent region for physical disability such as the posterior corona radiata. In addition, POMS patients showed, compared with the other two groups, reduced long-range FC, assessed from resting functional MRI, between default mode network and secondary visual network, whose interaction subserves important cognitive functions such as spatial attention and visual learning. Overall, this pattern of structural damage and brain connectivity disruption in early adult POMS patients with no or minimal clinical disability might explain their unfavorable clinical outcome in the long term.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Cerebellar pathology occurs in late multiple sclerosis (MS) but little is known about cerebellar changes during early disease stages. In this study, we propose a new multicontrast "connectometry" approach to assess the structural and functional integrity of cerebellar networks and connectivity in early MS. METHODS:We used diffusion spectrum and resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) to establish the structural and functional cerebellar connectomes in 28 early relapsing-remitting MS patients and 16 healthy controls (HC). We performed multicontrast "connectometry" by quantifying multiple MRI parameters along the structural tracts (generalized fractional anisotropy-GFA, T1/T2 relaxation times and magnetization transfer ratio) and functional connectivity measures. Subsequently, we assessed multivariate differences in local connections and network properties between MS and HC subjects; finally, we correlated detected alterations with lesion load, disease duration, and clinical scores. RESULTS:In MS patients, a subset of structural connections showed quantitative MRI changes suggesting loss of axonal microstructure and integrity (increased T1 and decreased GFA, P?<?0.05). These alterations highly correlated with motor, memory and attention in patients, but were independent of cerebellar lesion load and disease duration. Neither network organization nor rs-fMRI abnormalities were observed at this early stage. CONCLUSION:Multicontrast cerebellar connectometry revealed subtle cerebellar alterations in MS patients, which were independent of conventional disease markers and highly correlated with patient function. Future work should assess the prognostic value of the observed damage.
Project description:To understand the heterogeneity of functional connectivity results reported in the literature, we analyzed the separate effects of grey and white matter damage on functional connectivity and networks in multiple sclerosis. For this, we employed a biophysical thalamo-cortical model consisting of interconnected cortical and thalamic neuronal populations, informed and amended by empirical diffusion MRI tractography data, to simulate functional data that mimic neurophysiological signals. Grey matter degeneration was simulated by decreasing within population connections and white matter degeneration by lowering between population connections, based on lesion predilection sites in multiple sclerosis. For all simulations, functional connectivity and functional network organization are quantified by phase synchronization and network integration, respectively. Modeling results showed that both cortical and thalamic grey matter damage induced a global increase in functional connectivity, whereas white matter damage induced an initially increased connectivity followed by a global decrease. Both white and especially grey matter damage, however, induced a decrease in network integration. These empirically informed simulations show that specific topology and timing of structural damage are nontrivial aspects in explaining functional abnormalities in MS. Insufficient attention to these aspects likely explains contradictory findings in multiple sclerosis functional imaging studies so far.
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:The efficiency of human brain depends on the integrity of both long- and short-range connections, but the long-range connections need to be "penalized" to reduce overall wiring costs. This principle, termed as the anatomical distance function (ADF), refers to the presence of an inverse relationship between anatomical distance and connectivity. A crucial developmental feature that occurs in normal adolescence is the weakening of ADF, which is characterized by a selective strengthening of long-distance connections. Schizophrenia is associated with widespread dysconnectivity that is linked to aberrant cortical development.We studied the ADF in adults with schizophrenia (n = 28), their age-matched siblings (n = 28), and healthy controls (n = 60). We investigated the proportional abnormalities in the long-range connections involving interhemispheric, subcortical, frontal, and salience network regions and localized the connections showing most significant changes in schizophrenia. The groups were discriminated on the basis of short- and long-range connectivity using a machine-learning algorithm.Both patients and their siblings showed abnormally pronounced ADF. This was associated with a disproportionate reduction in the number of long-range connections, affecting the subcortical, interhemispheric, and the salience network connections. The abnormalities in long-range connections had superior ability to accurately identify group membership.A crucial organizing principle of the brain architecture that becomes apparent during normal adolescence is disturbed in schizophrenia. While siblings show some evidence of compensating for this deficit, patients lack putative compensatory changes. Age-related shift in ADF provides an explanatory framework for the developmental emergence of widespread dysconnectivity that is influenced by genetic risk in schizophrenia.
Project description:Aging is associated with changes in human brain anatomy and function and cognitive decline. Recent studies suggest the aging decline of major functional connectivity hubs in the 'default-mode' network (DMN). Aging effects on other networks, however, are largely unknown. We hypothesized that aging would be associated with a decline of short- and long-range functional connectivity density (FCD) hubs in the DMN. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated resting-state data sets corresponding to 913 healthy subjects from a public magnetic resonance imaging database using functional connectivity density mapping (FCDM), a voxelwise and data-driven approach, together with parallel computing. Aging was associated with pronounced long-range FCD decreases in DMN and dorsal attention network (DAN) and with increases in somatosensory and subcortical networks. Aging effects in these networks were stronger for long-range than for short-range FCD and were also detected at the level of the main functional hubs. Females had higher short- and long-range FCD in DMN and lower FCD in the somatosensory network than males, but the gender by age interaction effects were not significant for any of the networks or hubs. These findings suggest that long-range connections may be more vulnerable to aging effects than short-range connections and that, in addition to the DMN, the DAN is also sensitive to aging effects, which could underlie the deterioration of attention processes that occurs with aging.
Project description:AIMS:The thalamus is a major relay station that modulates input from many cortical areas and a filter for sensory input and is involved in the pathophysiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, it still remains unclear whether all thalamocortical networks are affected or whether there is selective vulnerability. In this study, we aimed to study the selective vulnerability of different thalamocortical structural connections in ALS and to test the hypothesis of a specific impairment in motor-related thalamocortical connectivity. METHODS:Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography was used to identify thalamocortical structural pathways in 38 individuals with ALS and 35 gender/age-matched control subjects. Thalami of both groups were parcellated into subregions based on local patterns of thalamocortical connectivity. DTI measures of these distinct thalamocortical connections were derived and compared between groups. RESULTS:The analysis of probabilistic tractography showed that the structural connectivity between bilateral pre/primary motor cortices and associated thalamic subregions was specifically impaired in patients with ALS, while the other thalamocortical connections remained relatively intact. In addition, fractional anisotropy values of the impaired thalamocortical motor pathway were inversely correlated with the disease duration. CONCLUSION:Our findings provide direct evidence for selective impairment of the thalamocortical structural connectivity in ALS.