A New Approach for Deep Gray Matter Analysis Using Partial-Volume Estimation
Introduction The existence of partial volume effects in brain MR images makes it challenging to understand physio-pathological alterations underlying signal changes due to pathology across groups of healthy subjects and patients. In this study, we implement a new approach to disentangle gray and white matter alterations in the thalamus and the basal ganglia. The proposed method was applied to a cohort of early multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and healthy subjects to evaluate tissue-specific alterations related to diffuse inflammatory or neurode-generative processes. Method Forty-three relapsing-remitting MS patients and nineteen healthy controls underwent 3T MRI including: (i) fluid-attenuated inversion recovery, double inversion recovery, magnetizationprepared gradient echo for lesion count, and (ii) T1 relaxometry. We applied a partial volume estimation algorithm to T1 relaxometry maps to gray and white matter local concentrations as well as T1 values characteristic of gray and white matter in the thalamus and the basal ganglia. Statistical tests were performed to compare groups in terms of both global T1 values, tissue characteristic T1 values, and tissue concentrations. Results Significant increases in global T1 values were observed in the thalamus (p = 0.038) and the putamen (p = 0.026) in RRMS patients compared to HC. In the Thalamus, the T1 increase was associated with a significant increase in gray matter characteristic T1 (p = 0.0016) with no significant effect in white matter. Conclusion The presented methodology provides additional information to standard MR signal averaging approaches that holds promise to identify the presence and nature of diffuse pathology in neuro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases.