Fatigue in multiple sclerosis: The contribution of occult white matter damage

Alvino Bisecco, Giuseppina Caiazzo, Alessandro D'Ambrosio, Rosaria Sacco, Simona Bonavita, Renato Docimo, Mario Cirillo, Elisabetta Pagani, Massimo Filippi, Fabrizio Esposito, Gioacchino Tedeschi, Antonio Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A functional cortico-subcortical disconnection has been recognized in fatigued multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Normal appearing white matter (NAWM) damage might contribute to the abovementioned disconnectivity. Objectives: To assess the relationship between fatigue and microstructural NAWM damage in relapsing-remitting (RR) MS. Methods: Sixty RRMS patients and 29 healthy controls (HC) underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Patients with a mean Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) score ≥ 4 were considered fatigued (fatigued MS (F-MS)). Tract-based spatial statistics were applied for voxel-wise analysis of DTI indices. A correlation analysis was performed between FSS score and DTI indices in the entire MS group. Results: Thirty MS patients were F-MS. Compared to HC, F-MS patients showed a more extensive NAWM damage than not fatigued MS (NF-MS) patients, with additional damage in the following tracts: frontal and occipital juxtacortical fibers, external capsule, uncinate fasciculus, forceps minor, superior longitudinal fasciculus, cingulum, and pons. No differences were found between F-MS and NF-MS patients. Fatigue severity correlated to DTI abnormalities of corona radiata, cingulum, corpus callosum, forceps minor, superior longitudinal fasciculus, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, thalamus and anterior thalamic radiation, cerebral peduncle, and midbrain. Conclusions: Fatigue is associated to a widespread microstructural NAWM damage, particularly in associative tracts connected to frontal lobes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1676-1684
Number of pages9
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2016


  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • fatigue
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • normal appearing white matter
  • tract-based spatial statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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