Statistics for investigation of multimodal MR imaging data and an application to multiple sclerosis patients

NMR Biomed. 1996 Dec;9(8):339-46. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1492(199612)9:8<339::AID-NBM422>3.0.CO;2-X.


Magnetic resonance spectroscopy can image axonal damage specifically based on changes in N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), a neuronal marker. We have developed statistical methods for multimodal analysis of MR spectroscopic images. These methods, which are extensions of mixed-effect models, have allowed us to quantify differences in images from different subgroups of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and to determine the dependence of chemical pathology on clinical disability, duration of disease and lesions on T2-weighted MRI. Statistical power was improved by using all reliable resonance intensities in the spectroscopic images while taking into consideration the intra-subject correlations. We studied 17 normal subjects, 14 patients with relapsing remitting (RR) MS and 21 patients with chronic progressive (CP) MS. The ratio of resonance intensities of N-acetylaspartate over creatine (Cr) was found to be significantly lower than normal in normal appearing white matter (NAWM) of both RR and CP patients (19.6% in RR, 28.8% in CP), NAA/Cr was decreased even more in MS plaques than in NAWM (44.2% in RR, 17.7% in CP), NAA/Cr was correlated with clinical disability (p < 0.02) and disease duration (p < 0.1). Our results suggest that, in this setting, MRS reflects accumulated neuronal loss or damage and can be used as a measure of disease severity. The methods developed provide opportunities to evaluate the relationship between inflammation, demyelination, axonal loss and clinical disability in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Creatine / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Recurrence
  • Reference Values


  • Aspartic Acid
  • N-acetylaspartate
  • Creatine