Progression in Disability and Regional Grey Matter Atrophy in Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2014 Feb;20(2):202-13. doi: 10.1177/1352458513493034. Epub 2013 Jun 26.


Background: In multiple sclerosis (MS) regional grey matter (GM) atrophy has been associated with disability progression.

Objective: The aim of this study was to compare regional GM volume changes in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients with progressive and stable disability, using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

Methods: We acquired baseline and 1-year follow-up 3-dimensional (3D) T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of RRMS patients, using two 1.5-Tesla scanners. Patients were matched pair-wise with respect to age, gender, disease duration, medication, scanner and baseline Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) into 13 pairs, with either progressive EDSS (≥ 1 point change y(-1)) or stable EDSS, as well as into 29 pairs with either progressive Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC) at ≥ 0.25% decrease in y(-1) in any component, or stable MSFC. We analysed longitudinal regional differences in GM volumes in the progressive and stable EDSS and MSFC groups, respectively, using VBM.

Results: Significant GM volume reductions occurred in the right precuneus, in the progressive EDSS group. Differential between-group effects occurred in the right precuneus and in the postcentral gyrus. Further longitudinal GM volume reductions occurred in the right orbicular gyrus, in the progressive MSFC group, but no between-group differences were observed (non-stationary cluster-wise inference, all P(corrected) < 0.05).

Conclusion: These results suggested a direct association of disability progression and regional GM atrophy in RRMS.

Keywords: Disability; Expanded Disability Status Scale; Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite; grey matter atrophy; magnetic resonance imaging; multiple sclerosis; precuneus; relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis; voxel-based morphometry.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology*