Free-water diffusion tensor imaging improves the accuracy and sensitivity of white matter analysis in Alzheimer’s disease
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can assess white matter (WM) integrity through several metrics, such as fractional anisotropy (FA), axial/radial diffusivities (AxD/RD), and mode of anisotropy (MA). Standard DTI is susceptible to the effects of extracellular free water (FW), which can be removed using an advanced free-water DTI (FW-DTI) model. The purpose of this study was to compare standard and FW-DTI metrics in the context of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Data were obtained from the Open Access Series of Imaging Studies (OASIS-3) database and included both healthy controls (HC) and mild-to-moderate AD. With both standard and FW-DTI, decreased FA was found in AD, mainly in the corpus callosum and fornix, consistent with neurodegenerative mechanisms. Widespread higher AxD and RD were observed with standard DTI; however, the FW index, indicative of AD-associated neurodegeneration, was significantly elevated in these regions in AD, highlighting the potential impact of free water contributions on standard DTI in neurodegenerative pathologies. Using FW-DTI, improved consistency was observed in FA, AxD, and RD, and the complementary FW index was higher in the AD group as expected. With both standard and FW-DTI, higher values of MA coupled with higher values of FA in AD were found in the anterior thalamic radiation and cortico-spinal tract, most likely arising from a loss of crossing fibers. In conclusion, FW-DTI better reflects the underlying pathology of AD and improves the accuracy of DTI metrics related to WM integrity in Alzheimer’s disease.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Bergamino, Maurizio; Walsh, Ryan R.; and Stokes, Ashley M., "Free-water diffusion tensor imaging improves the accuracy and sensitivity of white matter analysis in Alzheimer’s disease" (2021). Translational Neuroscience. 1185.