Regional vulnerability of longitudinal cortical association connectivity: Associated with structural network topology alterations in preterm children with cerebral palsy
R. Ceschin, V. K. Lee, V. Schmithorst, and A. Panigrahy, “Regional vulnerability of longitudinal cortical association connectivity: Associated with structural network topology alterations in preterm children with cerebral palsy.,” NeuroImage. Clin., vol. 9, pp. 322–37, Jan. 2015. PMID: 26509119 PMCID PMC4588423 DOI: 10.1016/j.nicl.2015.08.021
Preterm born children with spastic diplegia type of cerebral palsy and white matter injury or periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), are known to have motor, visual and cognitive impairments. Most diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies performed in this group have demonstrated widespread abnormalities using averaged deterministic tractography and voxel-based DTI measurements. Little is known about structural network correlates of white matter topography and reorganization in preterm cerebral palsy, despite the availability of new therapies and the need for brain imaging biomarkers. Here, we combined novel post-processing methodology of probabilistic tractography data in this preterm cohort to improve spatial and regional delineation of longitudinal cortical association tract abnormalities using an along-tract approach, and compared these data to structural DTI cortical network topology analysis. DTI images were acquired on 16 preterm children with cerebral palsy (mean age 5.6 ± 4) and 75 healthy controls (mean age 5.7 ± 3.4). Despite mean tract analysis, Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) demonstrating diffusely reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) reduction in all white matter tracts, the along-tract analysis improved the detection of regional tract vulnerability. The along-tract map-structural network topology correlates revealed two associations: (1) reduced regional posterior-anterior gradient in FA of the longitudinal visual cortical association tracts (inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, optic radiation, posterior thalamic radiation) correlated with reduced posterior-anterior gradient of intra-regional (nodal efficiency) metrics with relative sparing of frontal and temporal regions; and (2) reduced regional FA within frontal-thalamic-striatal white matter pathways (anterior limb/anterior thalamic radiation, superior longitudinal fasciculus and cortical spinal tract) correlated with alteration in eigenvector centrality, clustering coefficient (inter-regional) and participation co-efficient (inter-modular) alterations of frontal-striatal and fronto-limbic nodes suggesting re-organization of these pathways. Both along tract and structural topology network measurements correlated strongly with motor and visual clinical outcome scores. This study shows the value of combining along-tract analysis and structural network topology in depicting not only selective parietal occipital regional vulnerability but also reorganization of frontal-striatal and frontal-limbic pathways in preterm children with cerebral palsy. These finding also support the concept that widespread, but selective posterior-anterior neural network connectivity alterations in preterm children with cerebral palsy likely contribute to the pathogenesis of neurosensory and cognitive impairment in this group.