Spinal cord diffusion tensor imaging and fiber tracking can identify white matter tract disruption and glial scar orientation following lateral funiculotomy

J Neurotrauma. 2005 Dec;22(12):1388-98. doi: 10.1089/neu.2005.22.1388.


Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) provides data concerning water diffusion in the spinal cord, from which white matter tracts may be inferred, and connectivity between spinal cord segments may be determined. We evaluated this potential application by imaging spinal cords from normal adult rats and rats that received cervical lateral funiculotomies, disrupting the rubrospinal tract (RST). Vitrogen and fibroblasts were transplanted into the surgical lesion at time of injury in order to fill the cavity. At 10 weeks, animals were sacrificed; the spinal cords were dissected out and then imaged in a 9.4-Tesla magnet. DTI tractography demonstrated the disruption of the rubrospinal tract axons while indicating which axon tracts were preserved. Additionally, DTI imaging could identify the orientation of glial processes in the gray matter adjacent to the site of injury. In the injured animals, reactive astrocytes in adjacent gray matter appeared to orient themselves perpendicular to white matter tracts. In summary, DTI identified not only white matter disruption following injury, but could distinguish the orientation of the accompanying glial scar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Axotomy
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Female
  • Neuroglia / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology*
  • Spinocerebellar Tracts / pathology*