(HealthDay News) – Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics reveal distinct white matter (WM) integrity in patients with cognitively preserved (CP) and cognitively impaired (CI) multiple sclerosis (MS), according to research published online March 6 in Neurology.

Hanneke E. Hulst, of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues used DTI techniques to study whether the extent and severity of WM damage can be used to distinguish CP from CI patients with MS in a cohort of 55 patients (35 CP, 20 CI) and 30 healthy controls.

The researchers found that decreased fractional anisotrophy (FA) was observed in 49% of the WM skeleton investigated in CP patients and 76% of the WM investigated in CI patients, compared with healthy controls. Decreased FA was seen for both groups in areas including the corpus callosum, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculus, corticospinal tracts, forceps major, cingulum, and fornices, and was significantly worse for CI patients. CI patients also exhibited damage to the integrity of WM in cortical brain areas, thalamus, uncinate fasciculus, brainstem, and cerebellum. These changes did not depend on the location of lesions or on regional gray matter volume.

“CI patients diverged from CP patients only on DTI metrics. WM integrity changes were found in areas that are highly relevant for cognition in the CI patients but not in the CP patients,” the authors write. “These WM changes are therefore thought to be related to the cognitive deficits and suggest that DTI might be a powerful tool when monitoring cognitive impairment in MS.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties with the pharmaceutical industry.

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