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Neuroimaging studies in Wilson’s disease (WD) have identified various alterations in white matter (WM) microstructural organization. However, it remains unclear whether these alterations are localized to specific regions of fiber tracts, and what diagnostic value they might have. The purpose of this study is to explore the spatial profile of WM abnormalities along defined fiber tracts in WD and its clinical relevance.
Ninety-nine patients with WD (62 men and 37 women) and 91 age- and sex-matched controls (59 men and 32 women) were recruited to take part in experiments of diffusion-weighted imaging with 64 gradient vectors. The data were calculated by FMRIB Software Library (FSL) software and Automated Fiber Quantification (AFQ) software. After registration, patient groups and normal groups were compared by Mann–Whitney U test analysis.
Compared with the controls, the patients with WD showed widespread fractional anisotropy reduction and mean diffusivity, radial diffusivity elevation of identified fiber tracts. Significant correlations between diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) parameters and the neurological Unified Wilson’s Disease Rating Scale (UWDRS-N), serum ceruloplasmin, and 24-h urinary copper excretion were found.
The present study has provided evidence that the metrics of DTI could be utilized as a potential biomarker of neuropathological symptoms in WD. Damage to the microstructure of callosum forceps and corticospinal tract may be involved in the pathophysiological process of neurological symptoms in WD patients, such as gait and balance disturbances, involuntary movements, dysphagia, and autonomic dysfunction.
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