Mapping pathological changes in brain structure by combining T1- and T2-weighted MR imaging data

Ganzetti, Marco ; Wenderoth, Nicole ; Mantini, Dante

In: Neuroradiology, 2015, vol. 57, no. 9, p. 917-928

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    Introduction: A workflow based on the ratio between standardized T1-weighted (T1-w) and T2-weighted (T2-w) MR images has been proposed as a new tool to study brain structure. This approach was previously used to map structural properties in the healthy brain. Here, we evaluate whether the T1-w/T2-w approach can support the assessment of structural impairments in the diseased brain. We use schizophrenia data to demonstrate the potential clinical utility of the technique. Methods: We analyzed T1-w and T2-w images of 36 schizophrenic patients and 35 age-matched controls. These were collected for the Function Biomedical Informatics Research Network (fBIRN) collaborative project, which had an IRB approval and followed the HIPAA guidelines. We computed T1-w/T2-w images for each individual and compared intensities in schizophrenic and control groups on a voxel-wise basis, as well as in regions of interest (ROIs). Results: Our results revealed that the T1-w/T2-w image permits to discriminate brain regions showing group-level differences between patients and controls with greater accuracy than conventional T1-w and T2-w images. Both the ROIs and the voxel-wise analysis showed globally reduced gray and white matter values in patients compared to controls. Significantly reduced values were found in regions such as insula, primary auditory cortex, hippocampus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. Conclusion: Our findings were consistent with previous meta-analyses in schizophrenia corroborating the hypothesis of a potential "disconnection” syndrome in conjunction with structural alterations in local gray matter regions. Overall, our study suggested that the T1-w/T2-w technique permits to reliably map structural differences between the brains of patients and healthy individuals.