Diffusion tensor imaging in Huntington's disease reveals distinct patterns of white matter degeneration associated with motor and cognitive deficits

Brain Imaging Behav. 2011 Sep;5(3):171-80. doi: 10.1007/s11682-011-9121-8.


White matter (WM) degeneration is an important feature of Huntington's disease (HD) neuropathology. To investigate WM degeneration we used Diffusion Tensor Imaging and Tract-Based Spatial Statistics to compare Fractional Anisotropy, Mean Diffusivity (MD), parallel diffusivity and perpendicular diffusivity (λ⊥) in WM throughout the whole brain in 17 clinically diagnosed HD patients and 16 matched controls. Significant WM diffusivity abnormalities were identified primarily in the corpus callosum (CC) and external/extreme capsules in HD patients compared to controls. Significant correlations were observed between motor symptoms and MD in the CC body, and between global cognitive impairment and λ⊥ in the CC genu. Probabilistic tractography from these regions revealed degeneration of functionally relevant interhemispheric WM tracts. Our findings suggest that WM degeneration within interhemispheric pathways plays an important role in the deterioration of cognitive and motor function in HD patients, and that improved understanding of WM pathology early in the disease is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Corpus Callosum / pathology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / pathology*
  • Huntington Disease / psychology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests