Structural and functional MRI correlates of T2 hyperintensities of brain white matter in young neurologically asymptomatic adults
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Although white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are quite commonly found incidentally, their aetiology, structural characteristics, and functional consequences are not entirely known. The purpose of this study was to quantify WMHs in a sample of young, neurologically asymptomatic adults and evaluate the structural and functional correlations of lesion load with changes in brain volume, diffusivity, and functional connectivity.
MRI brain scan using multimodal protocol was performed in 60 neurologically asymptomatic volunteers (21 men, 39 women, mean age 34.5 years). WMHs were manually segmented in 3D FLAIR images and counted automatically. The number and volume of WMHs were correlated with brain volume, resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data. Diffusion parameters measured within WMHs and normally appearing white matter (NAWM) were compared.
At least 1 lesion was found in 40 (67%) subjects, median incidence was 1 lesion (interquartile range [IQR] = 4.5), and median volume was 86.82 (IQR = 227.23) mm3. Neither number nor volume of WMHs correlated significantly with total brain volume or volumes of white and grey matter. Mean diffusivity values within WMHs were significantly higher compared with those for NAWM, but none of the diffusion parameters of NAWM were significantly correlated with WMH load. Both the number and volume of WMHs were correlated with the changes of functional connectivity between several regions of the brain, mostly decreased connectivity of the cerebellum.
WMHs are commonly found even in young, neurologically asymptomatic adults. Their presence is not associated with brain atrophy or global changes of diffusivity, but the increasing number and volume of these lesions correlate with changes of brain connectivity, and especially that of the cerebellum.
• White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are commonly found in young, neurologically asymptomatic adults.
• The presence of WMHs is not associated with brain atrophy or global changes of white matter diffusivity.
• The increasing number and volume of WMHs correlate with changes of brain connectivity, and especially with that of the cerebellum.
KeywordsWhite matter Healthy volunteers Diffusion tensor imaging Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Fast field echo
Fluid attenuation inversion recovery
Interclass correlation coefficient
Normally appearing white matter
Resting-state functional MRI
Tract-based spatial statistics
Turbo spin echo
White matter hyperintensities
This study was supported by grant project AZV-15-32133A of the Czech Health Research Council and by funds from the Faculty of Medicine MU to junior researcher (M. Keřkovský).
This study has received funding by the Czech Health Research Council and by the Faculty of Medicine MU.
Compliance with ethical standards
The scientific guarantor of this publication is Assoc. Prof. Marek Mechl, M.D., Ph.D., MBA.
Conflict of interest
The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article.
Statistics and biometry
No complex statistical methods were necessary for this paper.
Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects in this study.
Institutional Review Board approval was obtained.
• Cross-sectional study
• Performed at one institution
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