Characterising the grey matter correlates of leukoaraiosis in cerebral small vessel disease
KeywordsScience & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Neuroimaging, Neurosciences & Neurology, VOXEL-BASED MORPHOMETRY, RANDOM-FIELD THEORY, CORTICAL THICKNESS, BRAIN ATROPHY, ALZHEIMERS-DISEASE, PROCESSING SPEED, RISK-FACTORS, IN-VIVO, MRI, LESIONS
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AbstractCerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is a heterogeneous group of pathological disorders that affect the small vessels of the brain and are an important cause of cognitive impairment. The ischaemic consequences of this disease can be detected using MRI, and include white matter hyperintensities (WMH), lacunar infarcts and microhaemorrhages. The relationship between SVD disease severity, as defined by WMH volume, in sporadic age-related SVD and cortical thickness has not been well defined. However, regional cortical thickness change would be expected due to associated phenomena such as underlying ischaemic white matter damage, and the observation that widespread cortical thinning is observed in the related genetic condition CADASIL (Righart et al., 2013). Using MRI data, we have developed a semi-automated processing pipeline for the anatomical analysis of individuals with cerebral small vessel disease and applied it cross-sectionally to 121 subjects diagnosed with this condition. Using a novel combined automated white matter lesion segmentation algorithm and lesion repair step, highly accurate warping to a group average template was achieved. The volume of white matter affected by WMH was calculated, and used as a covariate of interest in a voxel-based morphometry and voxel-based cortical thickness analysis. Additionally, Gaussian Process Regression (GPR) was used to assess if the severity of SVD, measured by WMH volume, could be predicted from the morphometry and cortical thickness measures. We found significant (Family Wise Error corrected p < 0.05) volumetric decline with increasing lesion load predominately in the parietal lobes, anterior insula and caudate nuclei bilaterally. Widespread significant cortical thinning was found bilaterally in the dorsolateral prefrontal, parietal and posterio-superior temporal cortices. These represent distinctive patterns of cortical thinning and volumetric reduction compared to ageing effects in the same cohort, which exhibited greater changes in the occipital and sensorimotor cortices. Using GPR, the absolute WMH volume could be significantly estimated from the grey matter density and cortical thickness maps (Pearson's coefficients 0.80 and 0.75 respectively). We demonstrate that SVD severity is associated with regional cortical thinning. Furthermore a quantitative measure of SVD severity (WMH volume) can be predicted from grey matter measures, supporting an association between white and grey matter damage. The pattern of cortical thinning and volumetric decline is distinctive for SVD severity compared to ageing. These results, taken together, suggest that there is a phenotypic pattern of atrophy associated with SVD severity.