The microstructural integrity of gray and white matter is decreased in adult moyamoya disease, suggesting covert ischemic injury as a mechanism of cognitive dysfunction. Establishing a microstructural brain imaging marker is critical for monitoring cognitive outcomes following surgical interventions. The authors of the present study determined the pathophysiological basis of altered microstructural brain injury in relation to advanced arterial occlusion, cerebral hypoperfusion, and cognitive function.
The authors examined 58 patients without apparent brain lesions and 30 healthy controls by using structural MRI, as well as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Arterial occlusion in each hemisphere was classified as early or advanced stage based on MRA and posterior cerebral artery (PCA) involvement. Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured with N-isopropyl-p-[123I]-iodoamphetamine SPECT. Furthermore, cognitive performance was examined using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Both voxel- and region of interest–based analyses were performed for groupwise comparisons, as well as correlation analysis, using parameters such as cognitive test scores; gray matter volume; fractional anisotropy (FA) of association fiber tracts, including the inferior frontooccipital fasciculus (IFOF) and superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF); PCA involvement; and rCBF.
Compared to the early stages, advanced stages of arterial occlusion in the left hemisphere were associated with a lower Performance IQ (p = 0.031), decreased anterior cingulate volumes (p = 0.0001, uncorrected), and lower FA in the IFOF, cingulum, and forceps major (all p < 0.01, all uncorrected). There was no significant difference in rCBF between the early and the advanced stage. In patients with an advanced stage, PCA involvement was correlated with a significantly lower Full Scale IQ (p = 0.036), cingulate volume (p < 0.01, uncorrected), and FA of the left SLF (p = 0.0002, uncorrected) compared to those with an intact PCA. The rCBF was positively correlated with FA of the SLF, IFOF, and forceps major (r > 0.34, p < 0.05). Global gray matter volumes were moderately correlated with TMT part A (r = 0.40, p = 0.003). FA values in the left SLF were moderately associated with processing speed (r = 0.40, p = 0.002).
Although hemodynamic compensation may mask cerebral ischemia in advanced stages of adult moyamoya disease, the disease progression is detrimental to gray and white matter microstructure as well as cognition. In particular, additional PCA involvement in advanced disease stages may impair key neural substrates such as the cingulum and SLF. Thus, combined structural MRI and DTI are potentially useful for tracking the neural integrity of key neural substrates associated with cognitive function and detecting subtle anatomical changes associated with persistent ischemia, as well as disease progression.