25 years of neuroimaging in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Nat Rev Neurol. 2013 Sep;9(9):513-24. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2013.153. Epub 2013 Aug 6.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal motor neuron disease for which a precise cause has not yet been identified. Standard CT or MRI evaluation does not demonstrate gross structural nervous system changes in ALS, so conventional neuroimaging techniques have provided little insight into the pathophysiology of this disease. Advanced neuroimaging techniques--such as structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy--allow evaluation of alterations of the nervous system in ALS. These alterations include focal loss of grey and white matter and reductions in white matter tract integrity, as well as changes in neural networks and in the chemistry, metabolism and receptor distribution in the brain. Given their potential for investigation of both brain structure and function, advanced neuroimaging methods offer important opportunities to improve diagnosis, guide prognosis, and direct future treatment strategies in ALS. In this article, we review the contributions made by various advanced neuroimaging techniques to our understanding of the impact of ALS on different brain regions, and the potential role of such measures in biomarker development.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / history
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends
  • Neuroimaging / history
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / trends


  • Biomarkers