Concurrent anatomical, physiological and network changes in cognitively impaired multiple sclerosis patients

Danka Jandric, Ilona Lipp, David Paling, David Rog, Gloria Castellazzi, Hamied Haroon, Laura Parkes, Geoff Parker, Valentina Tomassini, Nils Muhlert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis is associated with functional connectivity abnormalities, but the pathological substrates of these abnormalities are not well understood. It has been proposed that resting-state network nodes that integrate information from disparate regions are susceptible to metabolic stress, which may impact functional connectivity. In multiple sclerosis, pathology could increase metabolic stress within axons, damaging the anatomical connections of network regions, and leading to functional connectivity changes. We tested this hypothesis by assessing whether resting state network regions that show functional connectivity abnormalities in people with cognitive impairment also show anatomical connectivity abnormalities. Multimodal MRI and neuropsychological assessments were performed in 102 relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis patients and 27 healthy controls. Patients were considered cognitively impaired if they obtained a z-score of ≤1.5 on ≥2 tests of the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological Tests (n=55). Functional connectivity was assessed with Independent Component Analysis of resting state fMRI images, and anatomical connectivity with Anatomical Connectivity Mapping of diffusion-weighted MRI. Exploratory analyses of fractional anisotropy and cerebral blood flow changes were conducted to assess local tissue characteristics. We found significantly decreased functional connectivity in the anterior and posterior default mode networks and significant increases in the right and left frontoparietal networks in cognitively impaired relative to cognitively preserved patients. Networks showing functional abnormalities also showed reduced anatomical connectivity and white matter microstructure integrity as well as reduced local tissue cerebral blood flow. Our results identify key pathological correlates of functional connectivity abnormalities associated with impaired cognitive function in multiple sclerosis, consistent with metabolic dysfunction in functional network regions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021


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