29 May 2019
Conventional MRI is not sensitive to many pathological processes underpinning multiple sclerosis (MS) ongoing in normal appearing brain tissue (NABT). Quantitative MRI (qMRI) and a multiparameter mapping (MPM) protocol are used to simultaneously quantify magnetization transfer (MT) saturation, transverse relaxation rate R2* (1/T2*) and longitudinal relaxation rate R1 (1/T1), and assess differences in NABT microstructure between MS patients and healthy controls (HC).
This prospective cross-sectional study involves 36 MS patients (20 females, 16 males; age range 22–63 years; 15 relapsing-remitting MS - RRMS; 21 primary or secondary progressive MS - PMS) and 36 age-matched HC (20 females, 16 males); age range 21–61 years). The qMRI maps are computed and segmented in lesions and 3 normal appearing cerebral tissue classes: normal appearing cortical grey matter (NACGM), normal appearing deep grey matter (NADGM), normal appearing white matter (NAWM). Individual median values are extracted for each tissue class and MR parameter. MANOVAs and stepwise regressions assess differences between patients and HC.
MS patients are characterized by a decrease in MT, R2* and R1 within NACGM ( p < .0001) and NAWM ( p < .0001). In NADGM, MT decreases ( p < .0001) but R2* and R1 remain normal. These observations tend to be more pronounced in PMS. Quantitative MRI parameters are independent predictors of clinical status: EDSS is significantly related to R1 in NACGM and R2* in NADGM; the latter also predicts motor score. Cognitive score is best predicted by MT parameter within lesions.