Analysis of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps derived from diffusion-weighted MR imaging is emerging as a reproducible, sensitive, and quantitative tool to evaluate brain damage in diseases of the white and gray matter. To explore the potentials of ADC maps analysis in degenerative ataxias, we examined 28 patients and 26 age-matched controls with T1, T2, and diffusion (b values 0-1000 along the three main body axes)-weighted MR images. Twenty-four patients had inherited genetically proven diseases including spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) (n = 9), spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) (n = 8), and Friedreich's ataxia (FA) (n = 7), whereas four patients had sporadic adult onset pure cerebellar ataxia (three idiopathic, one gluten intolerance). Area and linear measurements of the CNS structures contained in the posterior cranial fossa (PCF) preliminary enabled classification of the patients in the three morphological categories reflecting the gross pathology findings, namely olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA) (n = 10: six SCA2 and four SCA1), spinal atrophy (SA) (n = 7: all FA), and cortical cerebellar atrophy (CCA) (n = 4: three idiopathic and one gluten intolerance). Seven patients with SCA1 (n = 5) or SCA2 (n = 2) had morphologic changes reminiscent of OPCA, but their values were still in the lower normal range and were classified as undefined. Mean diffusivity (D̄) maps of the entire brain were generated and D̄ was measured with regions of interest (ROI) in the medulla, pons, middle cerebellar peduncles, and the peridentate white matter. Moreover, after exclusion of the skull with manual segmentation and of the CSF with application of a threshold value, histograms were obtained for D̄ of the brainstem and cerebellum and for D̄ of the cerebral hemispheres. As compared to controls, a (P <0.001) increase of D̄ was observed in the medulla, middle cerebellar peduncles, and peridentate white matter in OPCA and undefined patients groups who had also significantly increased values of the 25th and 50th percentiles in the brainstem and cerebellum D̄ histogram. In CCA (P = 0.01), an increase of the 25th and 50th percentile of the D̄ value was observed in the brainstem and cerebellum histograms. The SA group showed (P <0.001) an increased D̄ in the medulla only. A correlation between clinical severity as assessed with the Inherited Ataxias Clinical Rating Scale (IACRS) and the 50th percentile of the D̄ value in the brainstem and cerebellum histogram (r = 0.69) was observed in patients with SCA1 or SCA2. Diffusion MR imaging reveals variable patterns of increase of D̄ in the brainstem, cerebellum, and cerebral hemispheres in degenerative ataxias that match the known distribution of the neuropathological changes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience