Age-related white matter lesions (WML) are common, impact neuronal connectivity, and affect motor function and cognition. In addition to pathological nigrostriatal losses, WML are also common co-morbidities in Parkinson’s disease (PD) that affect postural stability and gait. Automated brain volume measures are increasingly incorporated into the clinical reporting workflow to facilitate precision in medicine. Recently, multi-modal segmentation algorithms have been developed to overcome challenges with WML quantification based on single-modality input.
We evaluated WML volumes and their distribution in a case-control cohort of PD patients to predict the domain-specific clinical severity using a fully automated multi-modal segmentation algorithm.
Fifty-five subjects comprising of twenty PD patients and thirty-five age- and gender-matched control subjects underwent standardized motor/gait and cognitive assessments and brain MRI. Spatially differentiated WML obtained using automated segmentation algorithms on multi-modal MPRAGE and FLAIR images were used to predict domain-specific clinical severity. Preliminary statistical analysis focused on describing the relationship between WML and clinical scores, and the distribution of WML by brain regions. Subsequent stepwise regressions were performed to predict each clinical score using WML volumes in different brain regions, while controlling for age.
WML volume strongly correlates with both motor and cognitive dysfunctions in PD patients (p < 0.05), with differential impact in the frontal lobe and periventricular regions on cognitive domains (p < 0.01) and severity of motor deficits (p < 0.01), respectively.
Automated multi-modal segmentation algorithms may facilitate precision medicine through regional WML load quantification, which show potential as imaging biomarkers for predicting domain-specific disease severity in PD.

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