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The trait of extraversion is one of the longest-standing domains that captures the social dimension of personality and can potentially explain the covariation of a wide variety of behaviors. To date, there is a growing recognition that human behavior should be specified not only through the psychological mechanisms underlying each trait but also through their underlying neurobehavioral systems. While imaging studies have revealed important initial insights into the structural and functional neural correlates of extraversion, current knowledge about the relationships between extraversion and brain structures is still rather limited, especially with regard to the relationship between extraversion and white matter (WM). In this study, we aimed to investigate WM microstructure in extraversion in greater depth. Thirty-five healthy volunteers (21 women; mean age 35) underwent magnetic resonance imaging, as a part of a larger project aimed at investigating the longitudinal effect of motor training. WM integrity was assessed using the diffusion tensor imaging technique combining multiple diffusion tensor measures. Extraversion was assessed by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised. Voxelwise correlation analyses between fractional anisotropy, axial diffusivities, and radial diffusivities maps and extraversion score showed decreased connectivity in the right inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus and forceps major among individuals who had high extraversion ratings. In conclusion, individual differences in extraversion may reflect differential organization of the WM tracts connecting frontal cortex, temporal, and occipital areas, which are related to socioemotional and control functions.
Multiple concussions sustained in youth sport may be associated with later-life brain changes and worse cognitive outcomes. We examined the association between two or more concussions during high school football and later-life white matter (WM) microstructure (i.e., 22–47 years following football retirement) using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
Forty former high school football players aged 40–65 who received 2+ concussions during high school football (N = 20), or denied concussive events (N = 20) were recruited. Participants underwent neurocognitive testing and DTI scanning.
Groups did not statistically differ on age, education, or estimated pre-morbid intelligence. Tract-based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) correcting for Family-Wise Error (FWE)(p < .05) did not yield differences between groups at the whole-brain level. Region of interest analyses showed higher mean diffusivity (MD) in the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) in the concussed group compared to the non-concussed former players. More liberal analyses (i.e., p < .001, uncorrected for multiple comparisons, ≥8 voxels) also revealed that former players endorsing 2+ concussions had higher MD in the ALIC. Analyses that covaried for age did not reveal differences at either threshold. Concussive histories were not associated with worse cognitive functioning, nor did it impact the relationship between neuropsychological scores and DTI metrics.
Results suggest only minimal neuroanatomical brain differences in former athletes many years following original concussive injuries compared to controls.
Early life stress (ELS) is a risk factor for the development of depression in adolescence; the mediating neurobiological mechanisms, however, are unknown. In this study, we examined in early pubertal youth the associations among ELS, cortisol stress responsivity, and white matter microstructure of the uncinate fasciculus and the fornix, two key frontolimbic tracts; we also tested whether and how these variables predicted depressive symptoms in later puberty. A total of 208 participants (117 females; M age = 11.37 years; M Tanner stage = 2.03) provided data across two or more assessment modalities: ELS; salivary cortisol levels during a psychosocial stress task; diffusion magnetic resonance imaging; and depressive symptoms. In early puberty there were significant associations between higher ELS and decreased cortisol production, and between decreased cortisol production and increased fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus. Further, increased fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus predicted higher depressive symptoms in later puberty, above and beyond earlier symptoms. In post hoc analyses, we found that sex moderated several additional associations. We discuss these findings within a broader conceptual model linking ELS, emotion dysregulation, and depression across the transition through puberty, and contend that brain circuits implicated in the control of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis function should be a focus of continued research.
Background: The semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (svPPA) is a form of dementia, mainly featuring language impairment, for which the extent of white matter (WM) damage is less described than its associated grey matter (GM) atrophy. Our study aimed to characterise the extent of this damage using a sensitive and unbiased approach. Methods: We conducted a between-group study comparing 10 patients with a clinical diagnosis of svPPA, recruited between 2011 and 2014 at a tertiary reference centre, with 9 cognitively healthy, age-matched controls. From diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data, we extracted fractional anisotropy (FA) values using a tract-based spatial statistics approach. We further obtained GM volumetric data using the Freesurfer automated segmentation tool. We compared both groups using non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum tests, correcting for multiple comparisons. Results: Demographic data showed that patients and controls were comparable. As expected, clinical data showed lower results in svPPA than controls on cognitive screening tests. Tractography showed impaired diffusion in svPPA patients, with FA mostly decreased in the longitudinal, uncinate, cingulum and external capsule fasciculi. Volumetric data show significant atrophy in svPPA patients, mostly in the left entorhinal, amygdala, inferior temporal, middle temporal, superior temporal and temporal pole cortices, and bilateral fusiform gyri. Conclusions: This syndrome appears to be associated not only with GM but also significant WM degeneration. Thus, DTI could play a role in the differential diagnosis of atypical dementia by specifying WM damage specific to svPPA.
Objective: White matter (WM) microstructural changes are
increasingly recognized as a mechanism of age-related cognitive differences.
This study examined the associations between patterns of WM microstructure and
cognitive performance on the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
Brain Health Assessment (BHA) subtests of memory (Favorites), executive
functions and speed (Match), and visuospatial skills (Line Orientation) within a
sample of older adults. Method: Fractional anisotropy (FA) in WM
tracts and BHA performance were examined in 84 older adults diagnosed as
neurologically healthy (47), with mild cognitive impairment (19), or with
dementia (18). The relationships between FA and subtest performances were
evaluated using regression analyses. We then explored whether regional WM
predicted performance after accounting for variance explained by global FA.
Results: Memory performance was associated with FA of the
fornix and the superior cerebellar peduncle; and executive functions and speed,
with the body of the corpus callosum. The fornix–memory association and
the corpus callosum–executive association remained significant after
accounting for global FA. Neither tract-based nor global FA was associated with
visuospatial performance. Conclusions: Memory and executive
functions are associated with different patterns of WM diffusivity. Findings add
insight into WM alterations underlying age- and disease-related cognitive
Previous studies of conduct disorder (CD) have reported structural and functional alterations in the limbic system. However, the white matter tracts that connect limbic regions have not been comprehensively studied. The uncinate fasciculus (UF), a tract connecting limbic to prefrontal regions, has been implicated in CD. However, CD-related alterations in other limbic tracts, such as the cingulum and the fornix, have not been investigated. Furthermore, few studies have examined the influence of sex and none have been adequately powered to test whether the relationship between CD and structural connectivity differs by sex. We examined whether adolescent males and females with CD exhibit differences in structural connectivity compared with typically developing controls.
We acquired diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging data from 101 adolescents with CD (52 females) and 99 controls (50 females). Data were processed for deterministic spherical deconvolution tractography. Virtual dissections of the UF, the three subdivisions of the cingulum [retrosplenial cingulum (RSC), parahippocampal and subgenual cingulum], and the fornix were performed and measures of fractional anisotropy (FA) and hindrance-modulated orientational anisotropy (HMOA) were analysed.
The CD group had lower FA and HMOA in the right RSC tract relative to controls. Importantly, these effects were moderated by sex – males with CD significantly lower FA compared to male controls, whereas CD and control females did not differ.
Our results highlight the importance of considering sex when studying the neurobiological basis of CD. Sex differences in RSC connectivity may contribute to sex differences in the clinical presentation of CD.
A wealth of clinical studies have identified objective biomarkers, which separate schizophrenia patients from healthy controls on a group level, but current diagnostic systems solely include clinical symptoms. In this study, we investigate if machine learning algorithms on multimodal data can serve as a framework for clinical translation.
Forty-six antipsychotic-naïve, first-episode schizophrenia patients and 58 controls underwent neurocognitive tests, electrophysiology, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Patients underwent clinical assessments before and after 6 weeks of antipsychotic monotherapy with amisulpride. Nine configurations of different supervised machine learning algorithms were applied to first estimate the unimodal diagnostic accuracy, and next to estimate the multimodal diagnostic accuracy. Finally, we explored the predictability of symptom remission.
Cognitive data significantly classified patients from controls (accuracies = 60–69%; p values = 0.0001–0.009). Accuracies of electrophysiology, structural MRI, and diffusion tensor imaging did not exceed chance level. Multimodal analyses with cognition plus any combination of one or more of the remaining three modalities did not outperform cognition alone. None of the modalities predicted symptom remission.
In this multivariate and multimodal study in antipsychotic-naïve patients, only cognition significantly discriminated patients from controls, and no modality appeared to predict short-term symptom remission. Overall, these findings add to the increasing call for cognition to be included in the definition of schizophrenia. To bring about the full potential of machine learning algorithms in first-episode, antipsychotic-naïve schizophrenia patients, careful a priori variable selection based on independent data as well as inclusion of other modalities may be required.
The proportion of adults aged 60 years and over is expected to increase over the coming decades. This ageing of the population represents an important health issue, given that marked reductions to cerebral macro- and microstructural integrity are apparent with increasing age. Reduced cerebral structural integrity in older adults appears to predict poorer cognitive performance, even in the absence of clinical disorders such as dementia. As such, it is becoming increasingly important to identify those factors predicting cerebral structural integrity, especially factors that are modifiable. One such factor is nutritional intake. While the literature is limited, data from available cross-sectional studies indicate that increased intake of nutrients such as B vitamins (for example, B6, B12 and folate), choline, n-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, or increased adherence to prudent whole diets (for example, the Mediterranean diet) predicts greater cerebral structural integrity in older adults. There is even greater scarcity of randomised clinical trials investigating the effects of nutritional supplementation on cerebral structure, though it appears that supplementation with B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) or n-3 fatty acids (DHA or EPA) may be beneficial. The current review presents an overview of available research examining the relationship between key nutrients or adherence to select diets and cerebral structural integrity in dementia-free older adults.
Excessive worry is a defining feature of generalized anxiety disorder and is present in a wide range of other psychiatric conditions. Therefore, individualized predictions of worry propensity could be highly relevant in clinical practice, with respect to the assessment of worry symptom severity at the individual level.
We applied a multivariate machine learning approach to predict dispositional worry based on microstructural integrity of white matter (WM) tracts.
We demonstrated that the machine learning model was able to decode individual dispositional worry scores from microstructural properties in widely distributed WM tracts (mean absolute error = 10.46, p < 0.001; root mean squared error = 12.82, p < 0.001; prediction R2 = 0.17, p < 0.001). WM tracts that contributed to worry prediction included the posterior limb of internal capsule, anterior corona radiate, and cerebral peduncle, as well as the corticolimbic pathways (e.g. uncinate fasciculus, cingulum, and fornix) already known to be critical for emotion processing and regulation.
The current work thus elucidates potential neuromarkers for clinical assessment of worry symptoms across a wide range of psychiatric disorders. In addition, the identification of widely distributed pathways underlying worry propensity serves to better improve the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms associated with worry.
Background/Study Concept: Acute lacunar stroke (Als) plays a role in death/disability worldwide. Aphasia refers to chronic difficulty with communication in >20% of patients post stroke. We describe pathophysiological features of white matter (WM) abnormalities and their relationship between WM changes and aphasia quotient (AQ) scores in Als.
Methods: Diffusion tensor imaging data were acquired in 37 Als patients and 28 healthy controls. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and correlation analyses were used.
Results: Consistent with the hypothesis, Als had decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) and increased mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity and radial diffusivity in the genu, body and splenium of the corpus callosum (CC), superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) and corona radiata in the bilateral hemisphere. Reduced FA of SLF was correlated with AQ scores in Als patients.
Conclusion: It is hoped that TBSS could shed new insights into aphasia mechanisms in Als to help promote aging-related disease studies.
Gray matter (GM) ‘pseudoatrophy’ is well-documented in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN), but changes in white matter (WM) are less well understood. Here we investigated the dynamics of microstructural WM brain changes in AN patients during short-term weight restoration in a combined longitudinal and cross-sectional study design.
Diffusion-weighted images were acquired in young AN patients before (acAN-Tp1, n = 56) and after (acAN-Tp2, n = 44) short-term weight restoration as well as in age-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 60). Images were processed using Tract-Based-Spatial-Statistics to compare fractional anisotropy (FA) across groups and timepoints.
In the cross-sectional comparison, FA was significantly reduced in the callosal body in acAN-Tp1 compared with HC, while no differences were found between acAN-Tp2 and HC. In the longitudinal arm, FA increased with weight gain in acAN-Tp2 relative to acAN-Tp1 in large parts of the callosal body and the fornix, while it decreased in the right corticospinal tract.
Our findings reveal that dynamic, bidirectional changes in WM microstructure in young underweight patients with AN can be reversed with brief weight restoration therapy. These results parallel those previously observed in GM and suggest that alterations in WM in non-chronic AN are also state-dependent and rapidly reversible with successful intervention.
Decreased white matter (WM) integrity in patients with psychotic disorder has been a consistent finding in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies. However, the contribution of environmental risk factors to these WM alterations is rarely investigated. The current study examines whether individuals with (increased risk for) psychotic disorder will show increased WM integrity change over time with increasing levels of childhood trauma and cannabis exposure.
DTI scans were obtained from 85 patients with a psychotic disorder, 93 non-psychotic siblings and 80 healthy controls, of which 60% were rescanned 3 years later. In a whole-brain voxel-based analysis, associations between change in fractional anisotropy (ΔFA) and environmental exposures as well as interactions between group and environmental exposure in the model of FA and ΔFA were investigated. Analyses were adjusted for a priori hypothesized confounding variables: age, sex, and level of education.
At baseline, no significant associations were found between FA and both environmental risk factors. At follow-up as well as over a 3-year interval, significant interactions between group and, respectively, cannabis exposure and childhood trauma exposure in the model of FA and ΔFA were found. Patients showed more FA decrease over time compared with both controls and siblings when exposed to higher levels of cannabis or childhood trauma.
Higher levels of cannabis or childhood trauma may compromise connectivity over the course of the illness in patients, but not in individuals at low or higher than average genetic risk for psychotic disorder, suggesting interactions between the environment and illness-related factors.
Objectives: The goal of the present study was to elucidate the influence of demographic and neuropathological moderators on the longitudinal trajectory neuropsychological functions during the first year after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition to examining demographic moderators such as age and education, we included a measure of whole-brain diffuse axonal injury (DAI), and examined measures of processing speed (PS), executive function (EF), and verbal learning (VL) separately. Methods: Forty-six adults with moderate to severe TBI were examined at 3, 6, and 12 months post-injury. Participants underwent neuropsychological evaluation and neuroimaging including diffusion tensor imaging. Using linear mixed effects modeling, we examined longitudinal trajectories and moderating factors of cognitive outcomes separately for three domains: PS, VL, and EF. Results: VL and EF showed linear improvements, whereas PS exhibited a curvilinear trend characterized by initial improvements that plateaued or declined, depending on age. Age moderated the recovery trajectories of EF and PS. Education and DAI did not influence trajectory but were related to initial level of functioning for PS and EF in the case of DAI, and all three cognitive domains in the case of education. Conclusions: We found disparate recovery trajectories across cognitive domains. Younger age was associated with more favorable recovery of EF and PS. These findings have both clinical and theoretical implications. Future research with a larger sample followed over a longer time period is needed to further elucidate the factors that may influence cognitive change over the acute to chronic period after TBI. (JINS, 2018, 24, 237–246)
DTI is an established method to study cerebral white-matter microstructure. Two established measures of DTI are fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) and both differ for bilingual and monolingual speakers. Less is known about differences in two other measures called radial (RD) and axial diffusivity (AD). We report differences in mean RD and AD-values in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) and forceps minor between bilingual (Hindi–English) and monolingual (English) speakers as well as differences in mean FA-values in the anterior thalamic radiation, right inferior fronto-occipital and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) and mean MD-values in forceps minor and bilateral SLF. Noteworthy, a positive correlation between L2 proficiency and mean RD-values in the right SLF was observed. We suggest that changes in the geometry of white matter tracts reflect regular bilingual language experience and contend that neuroplasticity in right SLF results from demands on cognitive control for bilingual speakers.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies have consistently shown white matter (WM) microstructural abnormalities in schizophrenia. Whether or not such alterations could vary depending on clinical status (i.e. acute psychosis v. remission) remains to be investigated.
Twenty-five treatment-naïve first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and 51 healthy-controls (HC) underwent MRI scanning at baseline. Twenty-one patients were re-scanned as soon as they achieved sustained remission of symptoms; 36 HC were also scanned twice. Rate-of-change maps of longitudinal DTI changes were calculated for in order to examine WM alterations associated with changes in clinical status. We conducted voxelwise analyses of fractional anisotropy (FA) and trace (TR) maps.
At baseline, FEP presented reductions of FA in comparison with HC [p < 0.05, false-discovery rate (FDR)-corrected] affecting fronto-limbic WM and associative, projective and commissural fasciculi. After symptom remission, patients showed FA increase over time (p < 0.001, uncorrected) in some of the above WM tracts, namely the right anterior thalamic radiation, right uncinate fasciculus/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus/inferior longitudinal fasciculus. We also found significant correlations between reductions in PANSS scores and FA increases over time (p < 0.05, FDR-corrected).
WM changes affecting brain tracts critical to the integration of perceptual information, cognition and emotions are detectable soon after the onset of FEP and may partially reverse in direct relation to the remission of acute psychotic symptoms. Our findings reinforce the view that WM abnormalities in brain tracts are a key neurobiological feature of acute psychotic disorders, and recovery from such WM pathology can lead to amelioration of symptoms.
Deficits in social cognition may be among the most profound and disabling sequelae of paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI); however, the neuroanatomical correlates of longitudinal outcomes in this domain remain unexplored. This study aimed to characterize social cognitive outcomes longitudinally after paediatric TBI, and to evaluate the use of sub-acute diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to predict these outcomes.
The sample included 52 children with mild complex-severe TBI who were assessed on cognitive theory of mind (ToM), pragmatic language and affective ToM at 6- and 24-months post-injury. For comparison, 43 typically developing controls (TDCs) of similar age and sex were recruited. DTI data were acquired sub-acutely (mean = 5.5 weeks post-injury) in a subset of 65 children (TBI = 35; TDC = 30) to evaluate longitudinal prospective relationships between white matter microstructure assessed using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics and social cognitive outcomes.
Whole brain voxel-wise analysis revealed significantly higher mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD) in the sub-acute TBI group compared with TDC, with differences observed predominantly in the splenium of the corpus callosum (sCC), sagittal stratum (SS), dorsal cingulum (DC), uncinate fasciculus (UF) and middle and superior cerebellar peduncles (MCP & SCP, respectively). Relative to TDCs, children with TBI showed poorer cognitive ToM, affective ToM and pragmatic language at 6-months post-insult, and those deficits were related to abnormal diffusivity of the sCC, SS, DC, UF, MCP and SCP. Moreover, children with TBI showed poorer affective ToM and pragmatic language at 24-months post-injury, and those outcomes were predicted by sub-acute alterations in diffusivity of the DC and MCP.
Abnormal microstructure within frontal-temporal, limbic and cerebro-cerebellar white matter may be a risk factor for long-term social difficulties observed in children with TBI. DTI may have potential to unlock early prognostic markers of long-term social outcomes.
Background: Diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is relevant because it is a marker for evolution to dementia. However, the selection of suitable tests to evaluate separate cognitive domains in mild cognitive impairment related to PD remains an open question. The current work aims to investigate the neuroanatomical correlates of several visuospatial/visuoperceptual tests using the same sample and a multimodal MRI approach. Methods: The study included 36 PD patients and 20 healthy subjects matched for age, sex, and education. The visuospatial/visuoperceptual tests selected were: Pentagon Copying Test (PCT), Judgment of Line Orientation Test (JLOT), Visual Form Discrimination Test (VFDT), Facial Recognition Test (FRT), Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SMDT), and clock copying task (CLOX2). FreeSurfer was used to assess cortical thickness, and tract-based spatial statistics was used for fractional anisotropy analysis. Results: Lower performance in the PCT, JLOT, and SDMT was associated with extensive cortical thickness reductions in lateral parietal and temporal regions. VFDT and CLOX2 did not show this common pattern and correlated with more limited medial occipito-temporal and occipito-parietal regions. Performance in all visuospatial/visuoperceptual tests correlated with fractional anisotropy in the corpus callosum. Conclusions: Our findings show that JLOT, SDMT, and PCT, in addition to differentiating patients from controls, are suitable visuospatial/visuoperceptual tests to reflect cortical thinning in lateral temporo-parietal regions in PD patients. We did not observe the dissociation between dorsal and ventral streams that was expected according to the neuropsychological classification of visuospatial and visuoperceptual tests. (JINS, 2018, 24, 33–44)
Individuals at ultra-high-risk (UHR) for psychosis present with emerging symptoms and decline in functioning. Previous univariate analyses have indicated widespread white matter (WM) aberrations in multiple brain regions in UHR individuals and patients with schizophrenia. Using multivariate statistics, we investigated whole brain WM microstructure and associations between WM, clinical symptoms, and level of functioning in UHR individuals.
Forty-five UHR individuals and 45 matched healthy controls (HCs) underwent magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) at 3 Tesla. UHR individuals were assessed with the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States, Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms, and Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale. Partial least-squares correlation analysis (PLSC) was used as statistical method.
PLSC group comparisons revealed one significant latent variable (LV) accounting for 52% of the cross-block covariance. This LV indicated a pattern of lower fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), and mode of anisotropy (MO) concomitant with higher radial diffusivity (RD) in widespread brain regions in UHR individuals compared with HCs. Within UHR individuals, PLSC revealed five significant LVs associated with symptoms and level of functioning. The first LV accounted for 31% of the cross-block covariance and indicated a pattern where higher symptom score and lower level of functioning correlated to lower FA, AD, MO, and higher RD.
UHR individuals demonstrate complex brain patterns of WM abnormalities. Despite the subtle psychopathology of UHR individuals, aberrations in WM appear associated with positive and negative symptoms as well as level of functioning.
Although repeatedly associated with white matter microstructural alterations, bipolar disorder (BD) has been relatively unexplored using complex network analysis. This method combines structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to model the brain as a network and evaluate its topological properties. A group of highly interconnected high-density structures, termed the ‘rich-club’, represents an important network for integration of brain functioning. This study aimed to assess structural and rich-club connectivity properties in BD through graph theory analyses.
We obtained structural and diffusion MRI scans from 42 euthymic patients with BD type I and 43 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers. Weighted fractional anisotropy connections mapped between cortical and subcortical structures defined the neuroanatomical networks. Next, we examined between-group differences in features of graph properties and sub-networks.
Patients exhibited significantly reduced clustering coefficient and global efficiency, compared with controls globally and regionally in frontal and occipital regions. Additionally, patients displayed weaker sub-network connectivity in distributed regions. Rich-club analysis revealed subtly reduced density in patients, which did not withstand multiple comparison correction. However, hub identification in most participants indicated differentially affected rich-club membership in the BD group, with two hubs absent when compared with controls, namely the superior frontal gyrus and thalamus.
This graph theory analysis presents a thorough investigation of topological features of connectivity in euthymic BD. Abnormalities of global and local measures and network components provide further neuroanatomically specific evidence for distributed dysconnectivity as a trait feature of BD.