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Hyperintense Sensorimotor T1 Spin Echo MRI Is Associated With Brainstem Abnormality In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Wednesday 18 July 2018


From NeuroImage: Clinical (via ScienceDirect):


MRI scan

Hyperintense sensorimotor T1 spin echo MRI is associated with brainstem abnormality in chronic fatigue syndrome

Leighton R.Barndena, Zack Y.Shana, Donald R. Stainesa, SonyaMarshall-Gradisnika, KevinFineganb, TimothyIrelandb, SandeepBhutab

Under a Creative Commons license

a National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Southport, QLD 4222, Australia

b Medical Imaging Department, Gold Coast University Hospital, Parklands, QLD 4215, Australia


We recruited 43 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) subjects who met Fukuda criteria and 27 healthy controls and performed 3T MRI T1 and T2 weighted spin-echo (T1wSE and T2wSE) scans. T1wSE signal follows T1 relaxation rate (1/T1 relaxation time) and responds to myelin and iron (ferritin) concentrations. We performed MRI signal level group comparisons with SPM12.

Spatial normalization after segmentation was performed using T2wSE scans and applied to the coregistered T1wSE scans. After global signal-level normalization of individual scans, the T1wSE group comparison detected decreased signal-levels in CFS in a brainstem region (cluster-based inference controlled for family wise error rate, PFWE= 0.002), and increased signal-levels in large bilateral clusters in sensorimotor cortex white matter (cluster PFWE < 0.0001).

Moreover, regional brainstem T1wSE values were negatively correlated with sensorimotor values for both CFS (R2 = 0.31, P = 0.00007) and healthy controls (R2 = 0.34, P = 0.0009), and the regressions were co-linear. This relationship, previously unreported in either healthy controls or CFS, in view of known thalamic projection-fibre plasticity, suggests brainstem conduction deficits in CFS may stimulate the upregulation of myelin in the sensorimotor cortex to maintain brainstem – sensorimotor connectivity.

VBM did not find group differences in regional grey matter or white matter volumes. We argued that increased T1wSE observed in sensorimotor WM in CFS probably indicates increased myelination which is a regulatory response to decreases in the brainstem although the causality cannot be tested in this study.

Altered brainstem myelin may have broad consequences for cerebral function and should be a focus of future research.


Full article…



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