Identification of association fibers using ex vivo diffusion tractography in Alexander disease brains

J Neuroimaging. 2022 Sep;32(5):866-874. doi: 10.1111/jon.13040. Epub 2022 Aug 19.


Alexander disease (AxD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by heterozygous Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein mutation. The characteristic structural findings of AxD, such as leukodystrophic features, are well known, while association fibers of AxD remain uninvestigated. The aim of this study was to explore global and subcortical fibers in four brains with AxD using ex vivo diffusion tractography METHODS: High-angular-resolution diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (HARDI) tractography and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) tractography were used to evaluate long and short association fibers and compared to histological findings in brain specimens obtained from four donors with AxD and two donors without neurological disorders RESULTS: AxD brains showed impairment of long association fibers, except for the arcuate fasciculus and cingulum bundle, and abnormal trajectories of the inferior longitudinal and fronto-occipital fasciculi on HARDI tractography and loss of multidirectionality in subcortical fibers on DTI tractography. In histological studies, AxD brains showed diffuse low density on Klüver-Barrera and neurofilament staining and sporadic Rosenthal fibers on hematoxylin and eosin staining CONCLUSIONS: This study describes the spatial distribution of degenerations of short and long association fibers in AxD brains using combined tractography and pathological findings.

Keywords: Alexander disease; association fibers; diffusion-tensor imaging; high-angular resolution diffusion MRI; histology; postmortem.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alexander Disease* / diagnostic imaging
  • Alexander Disease* / pathology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Humans
  • White Matter*