Diffusion tensor imaging based network analysis detects alterations of neuroconnectivity in patients with clinically early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

Yang Li, Valerie Jewells, Minjeong Kim, Yasheng Chen, Andrew Moon, Diane Armao, Luigi Troiani, Silva Markovic-Plese, Weili Lin, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Although it is inarguable that conventional MRI (cMRI) has greatly contributed to the diagnosis and assessment of multiple sclerosis (MS), cMRI does not show close correlation with clinical findings or pathologic features, and is unable to predict prognosis or stratify disease severity. To this end, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with tractography and neuroconnectivity analysis may assist disease assessment in MS. We, therefore, attempted this pilot study for initial assessment of early relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). Neuroconnectivity analysis was used for evaluation of 24 early RRMS patients within 2 years of presentation, and compared to the network measures of a group of 30 age-and-gender-matched normal control subjects. To account for the situation that the connections between two adjacent regions may be disrupted by an MS lesion, a new metric, network communicability, was adopted to measure both direct and indirect connections. For each anatomical area, the brain network communicability and average path length were computed and compared to characterize the network changes in efficiencies. Statistically significant (P < 0.05) loss of communicability was revealed in our RRMS cohort, particularly in the frontal and hippocampal/parahippocampal regions as well as the motor strip and occipital lobes. Correlation with the 25-foot Walk test with communicability measures in the left superior frontal (r = -0.71) as well as the left superior temporal gyrus (r = -0.43) and left postcentral gyrus (r = -0.41) were identified. Additionally identified were increased communicability between the deep gray matter structures (left thalamus and putamen) with the major interhemispheric and intrahemispheric white matter tracts, the corpus callosum, and cingulum, respectively. These foci of increased communicability are thought to represent compensatory changes. The proposed DTI-based neuroconnectivity analysis demonstrated quantifiable, structurally relevant alterations of fiber tract connections in early RRMS and paves the way for longitudinal studies in larger patient groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3376-3391
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Dec


  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Indirect connections
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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