Abnormal Injury Response in Spontaneous Mild Ventriculomegaly Wistar Rat Brains: A Pathological Correlation Study of Diffusion Tensor and Magnetization Transfer Imaging in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

J Neurotrauma. 2017 Jan 1;34(1):248-256. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.4355. Epub 2016 Apr 11.


Spontaneous mild ventriculomegaly (MVM) was previously reported in ∼43% of Wistar rats in association with vascular anomalies without phenotypic manifestation. This mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) weight drop model study investigates whether MVM rats (n = 15) have different injury responses that could inadvertently complicate the interpretation of imaging studies compared with normal rats (n = 15). Quantitative MRI, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetization transfer imaging (MTI), and immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis were used to examine the injury pattern up to 8 days post-injury in MVM and normal rats. Prior to injury, the MVM brain showed significant higher mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity, and lower fractional anisotropy (FA) and magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) in the corpus callosum than normal brain (p < 0.05). Following TBI, normal brains exhibited significant decreases of FA in the corpus callosum, whereas MVM brains demonstrated insignificant changes in FA, suggesting less axonal injury. At day 8 after mild TBI, MTR of the normal brains significantly decreased whereas the MTR of the MVM brains significantly increased. IHC staining substantiated the MRI findings, demonstrating limited axonal injury with significant increase of microgliosis and astrogliosis in MVM brain compared with normal animals. The radiological-pathological correlation data showed that both DTI and MTI were sensitive in detecting mild diffuse brain injury, although DTI metrics were more specific in correlating with histologically identified pathologies. Compared with the higher correlation levels reflecting axonal injury pathology in the normal rat mild TBI, the DTI and MTR metrics were more affected by the increased inflammation in the MVM rat mild TBI. Because MVM Wistar rats appear normal, there was a need to screen rats prior to TBI research to rule out the presence of ventriculomegaly, which may complicate the interpretation of imaging and IHC observations.

Keywords: DTI; TBI; animal studies; model of injury; rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Concussion / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Concussion / pathology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Hydrocephalus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hydrocephalus / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar