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      Gray matter imaging in multiple sclerosis: what have we learned?

      , 1 , 2 , 2

      BMC Neurology

      BioMed Central

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          Abstract

          At the early onset of the 20 th century, several studies already reported that the gray matter was implicated in the histopathology of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, as white matter pathology long received predominant attention in this disease, and histological staining techniques for detecting myelin in the gray matter were suboptimal, it was not until the beginning of the 21 st century that the true extent and importance of gray matter pathology in MS was finally recognized. Gray matter damage was shown to be frequent and extensive, and more pronounced in the progressive disease phases. Several studies subsequently demonstrated that the histopathology of gray matter lesions differs from that of white matter lesions. Unfortunately, imaging of pathology in gray matter structures proved to be difficult, especially when using conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. However, with the recent introduction of several more advanced MRI techniques, the detection of cortical and subcortical damage in MS has considerably improved. This has important consequences for studying the clinical correlates of gray matter damage. In this review, we provide an overview of what has been learned about imaging of gray matter damage in MS, and offer a brief perspective with regards to future developments in this field.

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          Most cited references 123

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          Accurate, robust, and automated longitudinal and cross-sectional brain change analysis.

          Quantitative measurement of brain size, shape, and temporal change (for example, in order to estimate atrophy) is increasingly important in biomedical image analysis applications. New methods of structural analysis attempt to improve robustness, accuracy, and extent of automation. A fully automated method of longitudinal (temporal change) analysis, SIENA, was presented previously. In this paper, improvements to this method are described, and also an extension of SIENA to a new method for cross-sectional (single time point) analysis. The methods are fully automated, robust, and accurate: 0.15% brain volume change error (longitudinal): 0.5-1% brain volume accuracy for single-time point (cross-sectional). A particular advantage is the relative insensitivity to differences in scanning parameters. The methods provide easy manual review of their output by the automatic production of summary images which show the results of the brain extraction, registration, tissue segmentation, and final atrophy estimation.
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            Cortical demyelination and diffuse white matter injury in multiple sclerosis.

            Focal demyelinated plaques in white matter, which are the hallmark of multiple sclerosis pathology, only partially explain the patient's clinical deficits. We thus analysed global brain pathology in multiple sclerosis, focusing on the normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) and the cortex. Autopsy tissue from 52 multiple sclerosis patients (acute, relapsing-remitting, primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis) and from 30 controls was analysed using quantitative morphological techniques. New and active focal inflammatory demyelinating lesions in the white matter were mainly present in patients with acute and relapsing multiple sclerosis, while diffuse injury of the NAWM and cortical demyelination were characteristic hallmarks of primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Cortical demyelination and injury of the NAWM, reflected by diffuse axonal injury with profound microglia activation, occurred on the background of a global inflammatory response in the whole brain and meninges. There was only a marginal correlation between focal lesion load in the white matter and diffuse white matter injury, or cortical pathology, respectively. Our data suggest that multiple sclerosis starts as a focal inflammatory disease of the CNS, which gives rise to circumscribed demyelinated plaques in the white matter. With chronicity, diffuse inflammation accumulates throughout the whole brain, and is associated with slowly progressive axonal injury in the NAWM and cortical demyelination.
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              Gray matter atrophy in multiple sclerosis: a longitudinal study.

              To determine gray matter (GM) atrophy rates in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients at all stages of disease, and to identify predictors and clinical correlates of GM atrophy. MS patients and healthy control subjects were observed over 4 years with standardized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neurological examinations. Whole-brain, GM, and white matter atrophy rates were calculated. Subjects were categorized by disease status and disability progression to determine the clinical significance of atrophy. MRI predictors of atrophy were determined through multiple regression. Subjects included 17 healthy control subjects, 7 patients with clinically isolated syndromes, 36 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), and 27 patients with secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Expressed as fold increase from control subjects, GM atrophy rate increased with disease stage, from 3.4-fold normal in clinically isolated syndromes patients converting to RRMS to 14-fold normal in SPMS. In contrast, white matter atrophy rates were constant across all MS disease stages at approximately 3-fold normal. GM atrophy correlated with disability. MRI measures of focal and diffuse tissue damage accounted for 62% of the variance in GM atrophy in RRMS, but there were no significant predictors of GM atrophy in SPMS. Gray matter tissue damage dominates the pathological process as MS progresses, and underlies neurological disabillity. Imaging correlates of gray matter atrophy indicate that mechanisms differ in RRMS and SPMS. These findings demonstrate the clinical relevance of gray matter atrophy in MS, and underscore the need to understand its causes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Neurol
                BMC Neurology
                BioMed Central
                1471-2377
                2011
                12 December 2011
                : 11
                : 153
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Radiology, VU University Medical Centre, PO Box 7057, 1007 MB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences, section of Clinical Neuroscience, VU University Medical Centre, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                Article
                1471-2377-11-153
                10.1186/1471-2377-11-153
                3262750
                22152037
                Copyright ©2011 Hulst and Geurts; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review

                Neurology

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