Relating diffusion tensor imaging measurements to microstructural quantities in the cerebral cortex in multiple sclerosis

Rebecca McKavanagh, Mario Torso, Mark Jenkinson, James Kolasinski, Charlotte J. Stagg, Margaret M. Esiri, Jennifer A. McNab, Heidi Johansen-Berg, Karla L. Miller, Steven A. Chance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


To investigate whether the observed anisotropic diffusion in cerebral cortex may reflect its columnar cytoarchitecture and myeloarchitecture, as a potential biomarker for disease-related changes, we compared postmortem diffusion magnetic resonance imaging scans of nine multiple sclerosis brains with histology measures from the same regions. Histology measurements assessed the cortical minicolumnar structure based on cell bodies and associated axon bundles in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Area 9), Heschl's gyrus (Area 41), and primary visual cortex (V1). Diffusivity measures included mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy of the cortex, and three specific measures that may relate to the radial minicolumn structure: the angle of the principal diffusion direction in the cortex, the component that was perpendicular to the radial direction, and the component that was parallel to the radial direction. The cellular minicolumn microcircuit features were correlated with diffusion angle in Areas 9 and 41, and the axon bundle features were correlated with angle in Area 9 and to the parallel component in V1 cortex. This may reflect the effect of minicolumn microcircuit organisation on diffusion in the cortex, due to the number of coherently arranged membranes and myelinated structures. Several of the cortical diffusion measures showed group differences between MS brains and control brains. Differences between brain regions were also found in histology and diffusivity measurements consistent with established regional variation in cytoarchitecture and myeloarchitecture. Therefore, these novel measures may provide a surrogate of cortical organisation as a potential biomarker, which is particularly relevant for detecting regional changes in neurological disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4417-4431
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 15 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cortex
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • minicolumns
  • multiple sclerosis
  • postmortem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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