AUTHORS: Rahmanzadeh R, Weigel M, Lu PJ, Melie-Garcia L, Nguyen TD, Cagol A, La Rosa F, Barakovic M, Lutti A, Wang Y, Bach Cuadra M, Radue EW, Gaetano L, Kappos L, Kuhle J, Magon S, Granziera C

NeuroImage: Clinical, 36: 103177, August 2022



Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a common neurological disease primarily characterized by myelin damage in lesions and in normal – appearing white and gray matter (NAWM, NAGM).

Several quantitative MRI (qMRI) methods are sensitive to myelin characteristics by measuring specific tissue biophysical properties. However, there are currently few studies assessing the relative reproducibility and sensitivity of qMRI measures to MS pathology in vivo in patients.


We performed two studies. The first study assessed of the sensitivity of qMRI measures to MS pathology: in this work, we recruited 150 MS and 100 healthy subjects, who underwent brain MRI at 3 T including quantitative T1 mapping (qT1), quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), magnetization transfer saturation imaging (MTsat) and myelin water imaging for myelin water fraction (MWF). The sensitivity of qMRIs to MS focal pathology (MS lesions vs peri-plaque white/gray matter (PPWM/PPGM)) was studied lesion-wise; the sensitivity to diffuse normal appearing (NA) pathology was measured using voxel-wise threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE) in NAWM and vertex-wise inflated cortex analysis in NAGM. Furthermore, the sensitivity of qMRI to the identification of lesion tissue was investigated using a voxel-wise logistic regression analysis to distinguish MS lesion and PP voxels.

The second study assessed the reproducibility of myelin-sensitive qMRI measures in a single scanner. To evaluate the intra-session and inter-session reproducibility of qMRI measures, we have investigated 10 healthy subjects, who underwent two brain 3 T MRIs within the same day (without repositioning), and one after 1-week interval. Five region of interest (ROIs) in white and deep grey matter areas were segmented, and inter- and intra- session reproducibility was studied using the intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC). Further, we also investigated the voxel-wise reproducibility of qMRI measures in NAWM and NAGM.


qT1 and QSM showed the highest sensitivity to distinguish MS focal WM and cortical pathology from peri-plaque WM (P < 0.0001), although QSM also showed the highest variance when applied to lesions. MWF and MTsat exhibited the highest sensitivity to NAWM pathology (P < 0.01). On the other hand, qT1 appeared to be the most sensitive measure to NAGM pathology (P < 0.01). All myelin-sensitive qMRI measures exhibited high inter/intra sessional ICCs in various WM and deep GM ROIs, in NAWM and in NAGM (ICC 0.82 ± 0.12).


This work shows that the applied qT1, MWF, MTsat and QSM are highly reproducible and exhibit differential sensitivity to focal and diffuse WM and GM pathology in MS patients.