Neuroimaging biomarkers that can detect white matter (WM) pathology after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and predict long-term outcome are needed to improve care and develop therapies. We used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) to investigate WM microstructure cross-sectionally and longitudinally after mTBI and correlate these with neuropsychological performance. Cross-sectionally, early decreases of fractional anisotropy and increases of mean diffusivity corresponded to WM regions with elevated free water fraction on NODDI. This elevated free water was more extensive in the patient subgroup reporting more early postconcussive symptoms. The longer-term longitudinal WM changes consisted of declining neurite density on NODDI, suggesting axonal degeneration from diffuse axonal injury for which NODDI is more sensitive than DTI. Therefore, NODDI is a more sensitive and specific biomarker than DTI for WM microstructural changes due to mTBI that merits further study for mTBI diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment monitoring.
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