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Cross-sectional and longitudinal evaluation of white matter microstructure damage and cognitive correlations by automated fibre quantification in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients.

The purpose of this study was to characterize whole-brain white matter (WM) fibre tracts by automated fibre quantification (AFQ), capture subtle changes cross-sectionally and longitudinally in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients and explore correlations between these changes and cognitive performance A total of 114 RRMS patients and 71 healthy controls (HCs) were enrolled and follow-up investigations were conducted on 46 RRMS patients. Fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusion (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) at each node along the 20 WM fibre tracts identified by AFQ were investigated cross-sectionally and longitudinally in entire and pointwise manners. Partial correlation analyses were performed between the abnormal metrics and cognitive performance. At baseline, compared with HCs, patients with RRMS showed a widespread decrease in FA and increases in MD, AD, and RD among tracts. In the pointwise comparisons, more detailed abnormalities were localized to specific positions. At follow-up, although there was no significant difference in the entire WM fibre tract, there was a reduction in FA in the posterior portion of the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (R_SLF) and elevations in MD and AD in the anterior and posterior portions of the right arcuate fasciculus (R_AF) in the pointwise analysis. Furthermore, the altered metrics were widely correlated with cognitive performance in RRMS patients. RRMS patients exhibited widespread WM microstructure alterations at baseline and alterations in certain regions at follow-up, and the altered metrics were widely correlated with cognitive performance in RRMS patients, which will enhance our understanding of WM microstructure damage and its cognitive correlation in RRMS patients.

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