In vivo histopathological staging in C9orf72-associated ALS: A tract of interest DTI study


Müller HP, et al. Neuroimage Clin 2020.


BACKGROUND: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can identify amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-associated patterns of brain alterations at the group level according to a neuropathological staging system.

OBJECTIVE: The study was designed to investigate the in vivo staging in ALS patients with the C9orf72 expansion and potential differences to ALS patients with the SOD1 mutation.

METHODS: DTI-based white matter mapping was performed both by an unbiased voxel-wise statistical comparison and by a hypothesis-guided tract-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA) maps according to the ALS-staging pattern for 27 ALS patients with C9orf72 expansion vs 15 ALS patients with SOD1 mutation vs 32 matched healthy controls. Clinical and neuropsychological data were acquired and correlated to DTI data.

RESULTS: The analysis of white matter integrity demonstrated regional FA reductions along the CST and also in frontal and prefrontal brain areas according to the proposed propagation pattern for the ALS patients with C9orf72 expansion and sporadic patients. This pattern could not be identified for the SOD1 mutation at the group level. In contrast, in the tract-specific analysis according to the neuropathological ALS-staging pattern, C9orf72 expansion ALS patients showed significant alterations of ALS-related tract systems similar to sporadic patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The DTI study including the tract-of-interest-based analysis showed a microstructural corticoefferent involvement pattern according to the staging scheme in C9orf72-associated ALS patients but not in the SOD1 mutation.