High-resolution T1-relaxation time mapping displays subtle, clinically relevant, gray matter damage in long-standing multiple sclerosis

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Gray matter (GM) pathology has high clinical relevance in multiple sclerosis (MS), but conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is insufficiently sensitive to visualize the rather subtle damage.

To investigate whether high spatial resolution T1-relaxation time (T1-RT) measurements can detect changes in the normal-appearing GM of patients with long-standing MS and whether these changes are associated with physical and cognitive impairment.

High spatial resolution (1.05 × 1.05 × 1.2 mm3) T1-RT measurements were performed at 3 T in 156 long-standing MS patients and 54 healthy controls. T1-RT histogram parameters in several regions were analyzed to investigate group differences. Stepwise linear regression analyses were used to assess the relation of T1-RT with physical and cognitive impairment.

In both thalamus and cortex, T1-RT histogram skewness was higher in patients than controls. In the cortex, this was driven by the frontal and temporal lobes. No differences were found in other GM histogram parameters. Cortical skewness, thalamus volume, and average white matter (WM) lesion T1-RT emerged as the strongest predictors for cognitive performance (adjusted R2 = 0.39).

Subtle GM damage was present in the cortex and thalamus of MS patients, as indicated by increased T1-RT skewness. Increased cortical skewness emerged as an independent predictor of cognitive dysfunction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1288
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • cognition
  • disability
  • relaxometry
  • volumetry

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