Correlates of Executive Functions in Multiple Sclerosis Based on Structural and Functional MR Imaging: Insights from a Multicenter Study

Radiology. 2016 Sep;280(3):869-79. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2016151809. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


Purpose To study the concomitant use of structural and functional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging correlates to explain information processing speed (IPS) and executive function (EF) in multiple sclerosis (MS). Materials and Methods Local ethics committee approval was obtained at all sites for this prospective, multicenter study. All subjects provided written informed consent. Twenty-six patients with relapsing-remitting MS and 32 healthy control subjects from four centers underwent structural and functional MR imaging, including a go/no-go task and neuropsychological assessment. Subtests of the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological Tests, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, and the performance with the functional MR imaging paradigm were used as estimates of IPS and EF. Activation of the thalamus and the inferior frontal gyrus (pars triangularis), thalamic volume, T2 lesion load, and age were used to explain IPS and EF in regression models. Results Compared with control subjects, patients showed increased activation in a frontoparietal network, including both thalami, during the execution of the go/no-go task. Patients had decreased thalamic volume (P < .001). Among tested variables, thalamic volume (β = 0.606, P = .001), together with thalamic activation (β = -0.410, P = .022), were the best predictors of IPS and EF and helped explain 52.7% of the variance in IPS and EF. Conclusion This study highlights the potential of the combined use of functional and morphologic parameters to explain IPS and EF in patients with relapsing-remitting MS and confirms the central role of the thalamus as a relay station in executive functioning. (©) RSNA, 2016.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reaction Time
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging