Progressive gray matter damage in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a longitudinal diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging study

Arch Neurol. 2005 Apr;62(4):578-84. doi: 10.1001/archneur.62.4.578.


Background: Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT MRI) has the potential to provide in vivo information about tissue microstructure. In multiple sclerosis (MS), DT MRI has disclosed the presence of occult structural damage in the normal-appearing brain tissues.

Objective: To investigate whether DT MRI is sensitive to longitudinal changes of brain damage that may occur beyond the resolution of T2-weighted images in patients with relapsing-remitting MS.

Design: Twenty-six untreated patients with relapsing-remitting MS were followed up for 18 months. Dual-echo, DT and postcontrast T1-weighted MRIs of the brain were obtained at baseline and then every 3 months. Mean diffusivity (D) histograms of normal-appearing gray (GM) and white matter were produced. Total T2-hyperintense and T1-hypointense lesion volumes; normalized whole brain tissue, GM, and white matter volumes; percentage brain volume change between the study entry and exit images; average lesion D; and fractional anisotropy were also calculated.

Results: During the study period, a significant decrease of normalized whole brain tissue, average lesion fractional anisotropy and normal-appearing GM D histogram peak height, and a significant increase of average normal-appearing GM D and T2-hyperintense lesion volumes were observed. Changes of normal-appearing GM diffusivity were independent of the concomitant changes of normalized whole brain tissue and GM volumes.

Conclusions: The DT MRI findings show progressive microstructural changes in the normal-appearing GM of patients with untreated relapsing-remitting MS. Such changes do not reflect a concomitant development of brain atrophy and confirm the importance of GM pathology in MS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Axons / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / physiopathology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Recurrence


  • Methylprednisolone