Background: We hypothesized that the integrity of white matter might be related to the severity of freezing of gait in age-related white matter changes.
Methods: Twenty subjects exhibiting excessive hyperintensities in the periventricular and deep white matter were recruited. The subjects underwent the Freezing of Gait Questionnaire, computerized gait analyses, and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging. Images of axial, radial and mean diffusivity, and fractional anisotropy were calculated as indices of white matter integrity and analyzed with tract-based spatial statistics.
Results: The fractional anisotropy, mean, axial and radial diffusivity averaged across the whole white matter structure were all significantly correlated with Freezing of Gait Questionnaire scores. Regionally, a negative correlation between Freezing of Gait Questionnaire scores and fractional anisotropy was found in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus beneath the left premotor cortex, right corpus callosum, and left cerebral peduncle. The scores of the Freezing of Gait Questionnaire were positively correlated with mean diffusivity in the left corona radiata and right corpus callosum, and with both axial and radial diffusivity in the left corona radiata. The white matter integrity in these tracts (except the corpus callosum) showed no correlation with cognitive or other gait measures, supporting the specificity of those abnormalities to freezing of gait.
Conclusion: Divergent pathological lesions involved neural circuits composed of the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia and brainstem, suggesting that freezing of gait has a multifactorial nature.
Keywords: Age-related white matter change (ARWMC); Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Disconnection; Freezing of gait (FOG); Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS); Vascular Parkinsonism.