Imaging Poster Presentation

P0637 - Relevance of NODDI to characterise in vivo the microstructural abnormalities of multiple sclerosis cortex and cortical lesions: a 3T study (ID 1087)

  • P. Preziosa
  • E. Pagani
  • R. Bonacchi
  • L. Cacciaguerra
  • M. Filippi
  • M. Rocca
Presentation Number
Presentation Topic



In multiple sclerosis (MS), cortical damage is a relevant predictor of clinical disability, but MRI measures more specific to cortical pathology are needed. Neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging (NODDI) model is a multi-compartment diffusion model to better evaluate the complexity of brain microarchitecture.


To characterize, using NODDI, the microstructural abnormalities of normal-appearing cortex (NA-cortex) and cortical lesions (CLs) and their relations with disease phenotypes and clinical disability in a relatively large cohort of MS patients.


Brain 3D T1-weighted, FLAIR, double inversion recovery (DIR) and diffusion-weighted (DW) sequences were acquired from 164 MS patients (94 relapsing-remitting [RR], 70 progressive [P] MS) and 51 healthy controls (HC). The cortex was segmented from 3D T1-weighted sequence, whereas CLs were quantified on DIR. CLs and NA-cortex masks were then transformed into DW space. Using NODDI, intracellular volume fraction (ICV_f), representing neurite density, extracellular volume fraction (ECV_f) and orientation dispersion index (ODI), reflecting neurite orientation variability, were assessed in NA-cortex and CLs. Between-group comparisons and correlations with clinical and structural MRI measures were investigated.


One hundred and twelve (68.3%) MS patients had ≥1 CL. MS NA-cortex had a significant lower ICV_f vs HC NA-cortex (p=0.001). CLs showed a significant increased ECV_f (p<0.001) and decreased ICV_f and ODI compared to NA-cortex of HC (p<0.001) and MS (p=0.035 and <0.001). Compared to RRMS, PMS had a significant decreased NA-cortex ICV_f (p=0.024). Higher burden of CLs (p<0.001) were found in PMS vs RRMS, without microstructural differences. In MS patients, NA-cortex ICV_f, ECV_f and ODI were significantly correlated with disease duration, EDSS, white matter lesion volumes, CL volumes and whole brain and gray matter atrophy (r from -0.37 to 0.71, p from <0.001 to 0.048).


A significant neurite loss occurs in MS NA-cortex, being more severe with longer disease duration, higher disability and PMS. CLs show a further reduction of neurite density, together with an increased extracellular space, possibly due to inflammation and gliosis, and a reduced ODI suggestive of increased tissue coherence and simplification of neurite complexity. NODDI is reliable and clinically relevant to investigate in vivo the heterogeneous pathological processes affecting MS cortex.

Funding. This study is supported by a senior research fellowship FISM – Fondazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla – cod. 2019/BS/009 and financed or co-financed with the ‘5 per mille’ public funding.