Objectives: We aimed to investigate whether an inter-voxel diffusivity metric (local diffusion homogeneity, LDH), can provide supplementary information to traditional intra-voxel metrics (i.e., fractional anisotropy, FA) in white matter (WM) abnormality detection for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Methods: Diffusion tensor imaging was acquired from 34 T2DM patients and 32 healthy controls. Voxel-based group-difference comparisons based on LDH and FA, as well as the association between the diffusion metrics and T2DM risk factors [i.e., body mass index (BMI) and systolic blood pressure (SBP)], were conducted, with age, gender and education level controlled. Results: Compared to the controls, T2DM patients had higher LDH in the pons and left temporal pole, as well as lower FA in the left superior corona radiation (p < 0.05, corrected). In T2DM, there were several overlapping WM areas associated with BMI as revealed by both LDH and FA, including right temporal lobe and left inferior parietal lobe; but the unique areas revealed only by using LDH included left inferior temporal lobe, right supramarginal gyrus, left pre- and post-central gyrus (at the semiovale center), and right superior radiation. Overlapping WM areas that associated with SBP were found with both LDH and FA, including right temporal pole, bilateral orbitofrontal area (rectus gyrus), the media cingulum bundle, and the right cerebellum crus I. However, the unique areas revealed only by LDH included right inferior temporal lobe, right inferior occipital lobe, and splenium of corpus callosum. Conclusion: Inter- and intra-voxel diffusivity metrics may have different sensitivity in the detection of T2DM-related WM abnormality. We suggested that LDH could provide supplementary information and reveal additional underlying brain changes due to diabetes.
Keywords: diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; local diffusion homogeneity; type 2 diabetes mellitus; white matter.