MRI of the intracranial corticospinal tracts in amyotrophic and primary lateral sclerosis

Neuroradiology. 1999 Oct;41(10):744-9. doi: 10.1007/s002340050836.


Our aim was to investigate the corticospinal tracts (CST) in motor neurone disease, using MRI, and to correlate findings with clinical data. We studied 31 patients with amyotrophic (ALS) and eight with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). The signal from the CST was classified into four grades on T2-weighted images, and compared to T2-weighted images of 37 age-matched control subjects. No abnormalities were seen in the CST on T1-weighted images and were rarely evident on proton-density weighting. Variable high signal in the CST was found on T2-weighted images in 35 patients, and in 29 control subjects. Our grades 0 and 1 were more frequent in control subjects, grades 2 and 3 more frequent in patients. We found no correlation between the high signal and clinical data, including the duration of the illness. We therefore conclude that this technique is neither sensitive nor specific except in grade 3 which is quite specific for ALS. In half the patients we found atrophy of the superior parietal gyrus, which merits further study.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neuron Disease / diagnosis*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / pathology*
  • Radiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index