The in vivo detection of subpial cortical gray matter lesions in multiple sclerosis is challenging. We quantified the spatial extent of subpial decreases in the magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) of cortical gray matter in subjects with multiple sclerosis, as such reductions may indicate regions of cortical demyelination. We exploited the unique geometry of cortical lesions by using two-dimensional parametric surface models of the cortex instead of traditional three-dimensional voxel-wise analyses. MTR images were mapped onto intermediate surfaces between the pial and white matter surfaces and were used to compute differences between secondary-progressive MS (n = 12), relapsing-remitting MS (n = 12), and normal control (n = 12) groups as well as between each individual patient and the normal controls. We identified large regions of significantly reduced cortical MTR in secondary-progressive patients when compared with normal controls. We also identified large regions of reduced cortical MTR in 11 individual patients (8 secondary-progressive, 3 relapsing-remitting). The secondary-progressive patients showed larger areas of abnormally low MTR compared with relapsing-remitting patients both at the group level and on an individual basis. The spatial distributions of abnormal MTR preferentially involved cingulate cortex, insula, and the depths of sulci, in agreement with pathological descriptions of subpial gray matter lesion distribution. These findings suggest that our method is a plausible in vivo imaging technique for quantifying subpial cortical demyelinating lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis and, furthermore, can be applied at the typical clinical field strength of 1.5 T.
Keywords: MTR; cortical lesion; demyelination; multiple sclerosis; subpial.
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