Differential tractography as a track-based biomarker for neuronal injury

Neuroimage. 2019 Nov 15:202:116131. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116131. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Diffusion MRI tractography has been used to map the axonal structure of the human brain, but its ability to detect neuronal injury is yet to be explored. Here we report differential tractography, a new type of tractography that utilizes repeat MRI scans and a novel tracking strategy to map the exact segment of fiber pathways with a neuronal injury. We examined differential tractography on multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and epileptic patients. The results showed that the affected pathways shown by differential tractography matched well with the unique clinical symptoms of the patients, and the false discovery rate of the findings could be estimated using a sham setting to provide a reliability measurement. This novel approach enables a quantitative and objective method to monitor neuronal injury in individuals, allowing for diagnostic and prognostic evaluation of brain diseases.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Differential tractography; Diffusion MRI; Epilepsy; Fiber tracking; Huntington’s disease; Imaging biomarker; Multiple sclerosis; Neuronal injury.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / standards*
  • Epilepsy / diagnostic imaging*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers