Diffusion tensor imaging and MR spectroscopy of microstructural alterations and metabolite concentration changes in the auditory neural pathway of pediatric congenital sensorineural hearing loss patients

Chunxiao Wu, Lexing Huang, Hui Tan, Yanting Wang, Hongyi Zheng, Lingmei Kong, Wenbin Zheng
Brain Research 2016 May 15, 1639: 228-34

PURPOSE: Our objective was to evaluate age-dependent changes in microstructure and metabolism in the auditory neural pathway, of children with profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), and to differentiate between good and poor surgical outcome cochlear implantation (CI) patients by using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Ninety-two SNHL children (49 males, 43 females; mean age, 4.9 years) were studied by conventional MR imaging, DTI and MRS. Patients were divided into three groups: Group A consisted of children≤1 years old (n=20), Group B consisted of children 1-3 years old (n=31), and group C consisted of children 3-14 years old (n=41). Among the 31 patients (19 males and 12 females, 12m- 14y ) with CI, 18 patients (mean age 4.8±0.7 years) with a categories of auditory performance (CAP) score over five were classified into the good outcome group and 13 patients (mean age, 4.4±0.7 years) with a CAP score below five were classified into the poor outcome group. Two DTI parameters, fractional anisotropy (FA) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC), were measured in the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and auditory radiation. Regions of interest for metabolic change measurements were located inside the STG. DTI values were measured based on region-of-interest analysis and MRS values for correlation analysis with CAP scores.

RESULTS: Compared with healthy individuals, 92 SNHL patients displayed decreased FA values in the auditory radiation and STG (p<0.05). Only decreased FA values in the auditory radiation was observed in Group A. Decreased FA values in the auditory radiation and STG were both observed in B and C groups. However, in Group C, the N-acetyl aspartate/creatinine ratio in the STG was also significantly decreased (p<0.05). Correlation analyses at 12 months post-operation revealed strong correlations between the FA, in the auditory radiation, and CAP scores (r=0.793, p<0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: DTI and MRS can be used to evaluate microstructural alterations and metabolite concentration changes in the auditory neural pathway that are not detectable by conventional MR imaging. The observed changes in FA suggest that children with SNHL have a developmental delay in myelination in the auditory neural pathway, and it also display greater metabolite concentration changes in the auditory cortex in older children, suggest that early cochlear implantation might be more effective in restoring hearing in children with SNHL. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Brain and Memory.

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