Reduced neurite density in the brain and cervical spinal cord in relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis: A NODDI study

Sara Collorone, Niamh Cawley, Francesco Grussu, Ferran Prados, Francesca Tona, Alberto Calvi, Baris Kanber, Torben Schneider, Lucas Kipp, Hui Zhang, Daniel C. Alexander, Alan J. Thompson, Ahmed Toosy, Claudia AM Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott, Olga Ciccarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects both brain and spinal cord. However, studies of the neuraxis with advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are rare because of long acquisition times. We investigated neurodegeneration in MS brain and cervical spinal cord using neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI). Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate possible alterations, and their clinical relevance, in neurite morphology along the brain and cervical spinal cord of relapsing–remitting MS (RRMS) patients. Methods: In total, 28 RRMS patients and 20 healthy controls (HCs) underwent brain and spinal cord NODDI at 3T. Physical and cognitive disability was assessed. Individual maps of orientation dispersion index (ODI) and neurite density index (NDI) in brain and spinal cord were obtained. We examined differences in NODDI measures between groups and the relationships between NODDI metrics and clinical scores using linear regression models adjusted for age, sex and brain tissue volumes or cord cross-sectional area (CSA). Results: Patients showed lower NDI in the brain normal-appearing white matter (WM) and spinal cord WM than HCs. In patients, a lower NDI in the spinal cord WM was associated with higher disability. Conclusion: Reduced neurite density occurs in the neuraxis but, especially when affecting the spinal cord, it may represent a mechanism of disability in MS.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • axonal loss
  • diffusion-weighted MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • quantitative MRI
  • relapsing–remitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reduced neurite density in the brain and cervical spinal cord in relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis: A NODDI study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this