Background: Metabolic, morphological, and functional brain changes associated with a neurological deficit in hyperthyroidism have been observed. However, changes in microstructural white matter (WM), which can explain the underlying pathophysiology of brain dysfunctions, have not been researched.
Purpose: To assess microstructural WM abnormality in patients with untreated or newly diagnosed hyperthyroidism using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS).
Material and methods: Eighteen patients with hyperthyroidism and 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in this study. TBSS were used in this diffusion tensor imaging study for a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) of WM.
Results: When compared to the control group, TBSS showed a significant increase in the RD of the corpus callosum, anterior and posterior corona radiata, posterior thalamic radiation, cingulum, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the retrolenticular region of the internal capsule in patients with hyperthyroidism (P < 0.05), as well as a significant decrease in AD in the anterior corona radiata and the genu of corpus callosum (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This study showed that more regions are affected by the RD increase than the AD decrease in the WM tracts of patients with hyperthyroidism. These preliminary results suggest that demyelination is the main mechanism of microstructural alterations in the WM of hyperthyroid patients.
Keywords: Hyperthyroidism; axial diffusivity; diffusion tensor imaging; radial diffusivity; tract-based spatial statistical analysis.