Objective: To test the validity of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measures of tissue injury by examining such measures in a white matter structure with well-defined function, the medial longitudinal fasciculus (MLF). Injury to the MLF underlies internuclear ophthalmoparesis (INO). Methods: 40 MS patients with chronic INO and 15 healthy controls were examined under an IRB-approved protocol. Tissue integrity of the MLF was characterized by DTI parameters: longitudinal diffusivity (LD), transverse diffusivity (TD), mean diffusivity (MD) and fractional anisotropy (FA). Severity of INO was quantified by infrared oculography to measure versional disconjugacy index (VDI). Results: LD was significantly lower in patients than in controls in the medulla-pons region of the MLF (p < 0.03). FA was also lower in patients in the same region (p < 0.0004). LD of the medullapons region correlated with VDI (R = -0.28, p < 0.05) as did FA in the midbrain section (R = 0.31, p < 0.02). Conclusions: This study demonstrates that DTI measures of brain tissue injury can detect injury to a functionally relevant white matter pathway, and that such measures correlate with clinically accepted evaluation indices for INO. The results validate DTI as a useful imaging measure of tissue integrity.
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