Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and primary lateral sclerosis: The role of diffusion tensor imaging and other advanced MR-based techniques as objective upper motor neuron markers

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1064:61-77. doi: 10.1196/annals.1340.013.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a motor neuron disease characterized by progressive degeneration of upper motor neuron (UMN) and lower motor neuron (LMN), while primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) is defined by pure UMN involvement. A reliable objective marker of UMN involvement is critical for the early diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression in patients with ALS and PLS. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), magnetization transfer imaging (MTI), and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which provide insight into the pathophysiological process of ALS and PLS, show great promise in this regard. Further investigation is needed to determine and to compare the utility of various neuroimaging markers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Efferent Pathways / pathology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods
  • Motor Neuron Disease / diagnosis*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / physiopathology
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests


  • Biomarkers