Background. Neuroimaging studies of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) have previously focused mainly on tubers or subependymal nodules. Subtle pathological changes in the structure of the brain have not been studied in detail. Computationally intensive techniques for reliable morphometry of brain structure are useful in disorders like TSC, where there is little prior data to guide selection of regions of interest.
Methods. Dual-echo, fast spin-echo MRI data were acquired from 10 TSC patients of normal intelligence and eight age-matched controls. Between-group differences in grey matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid were estimated at each intracerebral voxel after registration of these images in standard space; a permutation test based on spatial statistics was used for inference. CSF-attenuated FLAIR images were acquired for neuroradiological rating of tuber number.
Results. Significant deficits were found in patients, relative to comparison subjects, of grey matter volume bilaterally in the medial temporal lobes, posterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus and basal ganglia, and unilaterally in right fronto-parietal cortex (patients −20%). We also found significant and approximately symmetrical deficits of central white matter involving the longitudinal fasciculi and other major intrahemispheric tracts (patients −21%); and a bilateral cerebellar region of relative white matter excess (patients +28%). Within the patient group, grey matter volume in limbic and subcortical regions of deficit was negatively correlated with tuber count.
Conclusions. Neuropathological changes associated with TSC may be more extensive than hitherto suspected, involving radiologically normal parenchymal structures as well as tubers, although these two aspects of the disorder may be correlated.