MRI-FLAIR images of the head show corticospinal tract alterations in ALS patients more frequently than T2-, T1- and proton-density-weighted images

J Neurol Sci. 2001 May 1;186(1-2):37-44. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(01)00503-2.


In some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), T2-weighted and proton-density-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows hyperintense or hypointense signals at the corticospinal tract. Fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) sequences increase the sensitivity of MRI to detect cortical and subcortical tissue changes. In 31 ALS patients and 33 controls, we studied the frequency and the extent of signal abnormalities in FLAIR images compared to T2-, T1- and proton-density-weighted images. Hyperintense signals at the corticospinal tract were significantly more frequent in FLAIR images than in all other tested sequences. In FLAIR images of ALS patients only, distinct hyperintense signals at the subcortical precentral gyrus (five patients), the centrum semiovale (eight patients), the crus cerebri (nine patients) and the pons (four patients) as well as mild hyperintense signals in the medulla oblongata (three patients) were seen. More frequently, but not exclusively in ALS patients, FLAIR images showed mild hyperintense signals at the subcortical precentral gyrus (15 patients vs. 1 control). Quantitative analysis confirmed the significant difference between ALS patients and controls at the subcortical precentral gyrus in FLAIR images. In T1-weighted images, the corticospinal tract at the capsula interna was hypointense in significantly more controls than ALS patients. Also this difference was confirmed in the quantitative analysis. Similar to previous results, MR image alterations did correlate poorly to clinical data of upper motor neuron affliction.MR images of the head, including FLAIR images, provide additional information regarding corticospinal tract involvement in ALS patients. Because of an overlap with physiological findings, they have to be interpreted cautiously, with the exception of hyperintense signals at the subcortical precentral gyrus.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Pyramidal Tracts / pathology*