Measurement of whole-brain atrophy in multiple sclerosis

J Neuroimaging. 2004 Jul;14(3 Suppl):11S-19S. doi: 10.1177/1051228404266264.


Brain atrophy reflects the net result of irreversible and destructive pathological processes in multiple sclerosis (MS). The gross morphological changes can be accurately quantified using standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) acquisitions and various image analysis tools. The current methods used to assess whole-brain atrophy in patients with MS can be classified into 2 groups based on their reliance on segmentation and registration. Segmentation-based methods employed to measure whole-brain atrophy in MS include the brain parenchymal fraction, the index of brain atrophy, the whole-brain ratio, the brain to intracranial capacity ratio, fuzzy connectedness/Udupa's method, 3DVIEWNIX, the Alfano method, and SIENAX. Current registration-based methods used to measure whole-brain atrophy in MS include the brain boundary shift integral, SIENA, statistical parametric mapping, template-driven seg mentation, and voxel-based morphometry. Most of the methods presented here are sensitive to subtle changes in brain structures and have been successfully applied to MS as measures of whole-brain atrophy. Yet comparative studies of these methods are limited and are complicated by the lack of a gold standard for image acquisition, a segmentation algorithm, an image analysis method, or a reproducibility measure. Overall, the measure of whole-brain atrophy from MRI contributes to an appreciation of the dynamics of MS pathology and its relationship to the clinical course of MS. Determination of the relative reproducibility, precision, sensitivity, and validity of these methods will promote the use of whole-brain atrophy measures as components of comprehensive MRI-based outcome assessment in MS clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology*