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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00011

White matter microstructure alterations in patients with spinal cord injury assessed by diffusion tensor imaging

 Yun Guo1, Feng Gao1, Yaou Liu2,  Hua Guo3, Weiyong Yu1, Zhenbo Chen1, Mingliang Yang1, Liangjie Du1, Degang Yang1 and Jianjun Li1*
  • 1China Rehabilitation Research Center, China
  • 2Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University, China
  • 3Tsinghua University, China

Compared to healthy controls, spinal cord injury (SCI) patients demonstrated white matter (WM) abnormalities in the brain. However, little progress has been made to compare whether cerebral WM differences between SCI-subgroups. The purpose of the study was to investigate WM mircrostructure differences between paraplegia and quadriplegia using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and atlas-based analysis methods. Twenty-two SCI patients (11cervical SCI and 11 thoracic SCI) and 22 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in this study. TBSS and atlas-based analyses were performed between SCI and control groups and between SCI-subgroups using multiple diffusion metrics, including fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD). Compared to controls, SCI patients had decreased FA along with increased MD and RD in corpus callosum (genu and splenium), superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), corona radiata (CR), posterior thalamic radiation (PTR), right cingulum (cingulate gyrus) (CCG) and right superior fronto-occipital fasciculus (SFOF). Cervical SCI patients had lower FA and higher RD in left PTR than thoracic SCI patients. Time since injury had negative correlations with FA within right SFOF (r=-0.452, p=0.046) and positive association between the FA of left PTR and sensory score of ASIA (r=0.428, p=0.047). In conclusion, our study suggest that multiple cerebral WM tracts are damaged in SCI patients, and WM disruption in cervical SCI was worse than thoracic injury level, especially in the region of PTR.

Keywords: spinal cord injury, cerebral white matter mircostructure, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS), Atlas-based analysis

Received: 08 Aug 2018; Accepted: 10 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Hidenao Fukuyama, Kyoto University, Japan

Reviewed by:

Liis Sabre, Decision Research, United States
Mario Mascalchi, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy  

Copyright: © 2019 Guo, Gao, Liu, Guo, Yu, Chen, Yang, Du, Yang and Li. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jianjun Li, China Rehabilitation Research Center, Fengtai District, China,