Hybrid Diffusion Imaging in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is an important public health problem. Although conventional medical imaging techniques can detect moderate-to-severe injuries, they are relatively insensitive to mTBI. In this study, we used hybrid diffusion imaging (HYDI) to detect white matter alterations in 19 patients with mTBI and 23 other trauma control patients. Within 15 days (standard deviation = 10) of brain injury, all subjects underwent magnetic resonance HYDI and were assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests of sustained attention, memory, and executive function. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used for voxel-wise statistical analyses within the white matter skeleton to study between-group differences in diffusion metrics, within-group correlations between diffusion metrics and clinical outcomes, and between-group interaction effects. The advanced diffusion imaging techniques, including neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) and q-space analyses, appeared to be more sensitive then classic diffusion tensor imaging. Only NODDI-derived intra-axonal volume fraction (Vic) demonstrated significant group differences (i.e., 5–9% lower in the injured brain). Within the mTBI group, V$_{ic}$ and a q-space measure, P$_{0}$, correlated with 6 of 10 neuropsychological tests, including measures of attention, memory, and executive function. In addition, the direction of correlations differed significantly between groups (R$^{2}$ > 0.71 and p$_{interation}$ < 0.03). Specifically, in the control group, higher V$_{ic}$ and P$_{0}$ were associated with better performances on clinical assessments, whereas in the mTBI group, higher V$_{ic}$ and P$_{0}$ were associated with worse performances with correlation coefficients >0.83. In summary, the NODDI-derived axonal density index and q-space measure for tissue restriction demonstrated superior sensitivity to white matter changes shortly after mTBI. These techniques hold promise as a neuroimaging biomarker for mTBI.

Publication Date:
Oct 01 2018
Date Submitted:
Jul 01 2019
Journal of Neurotrauma
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 Record created 2019-07-01, last modified 2019-07-24

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