Multimodal structural MRI in the diagnosis of motor neuron diseases

Pilar M. Ferraro, Federica Agosta, Nilo Riva, Massimiliano Copetti, Edoardo Gioele Spinelli, Yuri Falzone, Gianni Sorarù, Giancarlo Comi, Adriano Chiò, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This prospective study developed an MRI-based method for identification of individual motor neuron disease (MND) patients and test its accuracy at the individual patient level in an independent sample compared with mimic disorders. 123 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), 44 patients with predominantly upper motor neuron disease (PUMN), 20 patients with ALS-mimic disorders, and 78 healthy controls were studied. The diagnostic accuracy of precentral cortical thickness and diffusion tensor (DT) MRI metrics of corticospinal and motor callosal tracts were assessed in a training cohort and externally proved in a validation cohort using a random forest analysis. In the training set, precentral cortical thickness showed 0.86 and 0.89 accuracy in differentiating ALS and PUMN patients from controls, while DT MRI distinguished the two groups from controls with 0.78 and 0.92 accuracy. In ALS vs controls, the combination of cortical thickness and DT MRI metrics (combined model) improved the classification pattern (0.91 accuracy). In the validation cohort, the best accuracy was reached by DT MRI (0.87 and 0.95 accuracy in ALS and PUMN vs mimic disorders). The combined model distinguished ALS and PUMN patients from mimic syndromes with 0.87 and 0.94 accuracy. A multimodal MRI approach that incorporates motor cortical and white matter alterations yields statistically significant improvement in accuracy over using each modality separately in the individual MND patient classification. DT MRI represents the most powerful tool to distinguish MND from mimic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-247
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Diagnosis
  • Motor neuron disease
  • MRI
  • Random forest analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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