Thalamic Nuclei Volumes and Their Relationships to Neuroperformance in Multiple Sclerosis: A Cross-Sectional Structural MRI Study

Niels Bergsland, Ralph H.B. Benedict, Michael G. Dwyer, Tom A. Fuchs, Dejan Jakimovski, Ferdinand Schweser, Eleonora Tavazzi, Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, Robert Zivadinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although reduced thalamic volume is associated with multiple sclerosis (MS)-related clinical impairment, the role of individual thalamic nuclei remains poorly understood. Purpose/Hypothesis: To test whether individual thalamic nuclei volumes are more strongly associated with clinical disability than the whole thalamic volume. Study Type: Retrospective analysis of a prospective dataset. Subjects: A total of 108 MS patients and 48 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs). Field Strength: 3T. Sequences: 3D T1-weighted inversion recovery spoiled gradient echo; 2D T2-weighted fluid-attenuated inversion recovery spin echo; 2D dual-echo proton density-weighted/T2-weighted spin echo. Assessments: Clinical assessments included the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), Nine-Hole Peg Test (9HPT), Timed 25-Foot Walk (T25FW), Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), Brief Visuospatial Memory Test-Revised (BVMTR), and the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT2). FreeSurfer provided anterior, intralaminar, lateral, medial, ventral, posterior, and total volumes. Statistical Tests: False discovery rate-corrected partial correlations (controlling for age, sex, and education) to assess the relationships between volumes and neuroperformance. Results: Compared to HCs, MS patients presented with lower thalamic nuclei volumes (P < 0.05) except for the intralaminar nucleus (P = 0.279) and scored worse on all neuroperformance scales (P ≤ 0.05) except for CVLT2 (P = 0.151). All nuclei except intralaminar were associated with EDSS (correlation coefficient range: –0.233 to –0.395), SDMT (range: 0.247–0.423), and 9HPT (range: –0.232 to –0.303) (all P < 0.05). BVMTR was associated with anterior (r = 0.319), lateral (r = 0.31), and medial (r = 0.304) volumes (all P < 0.05). T25FW correlated with ventral (r = –0.392) and total (r = –0.309) volumes (both P < 0.05), with the latter being significantly greater (P < 0.05). Data Conclusion: Assessing individual nuclei volume can aid in unraveling the relationship between thalamic pathology and disparate aspects of MS-related disability. Level of Evidence: 2. Technical Efficacy Stage: 2.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 2020


  • atrophy
  • cognition
  • multiple sclerosis
  • thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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