Comparison of spontaneous brain activity revealed by regional homogeneity in AQP4-IgG neuromyelitis optica-optic neuritis versus MOG-IgG optic neuritis patients: a resting-state functional MRI study
Received 29 June 2017
Accepted for publication 15 August 2017
Published 24 October 2017 Volume 2017:13 Pages 2669—2679
Checked for plagiarism Yes
Review by Single anonymous peer review
Peer reviewer comments 2
Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder
Junqing Wang,1,* Yuan Tian,2,* Yi Shao,3,* Hui Feng,1 Limin Qin,1 Weiwei Xu,1 Hongjuan Liu,1 Quangang Xu,1 Shihui Wei,1 Lin Ma2
1Department of Ophthalmology, 2Department of Radiology, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, 3Department of Ophthalmology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, Jiangxi, People’s Republic of China
*These authors contributed equally to this work
Objective: Many previous studies have demonstrated that neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patients have abnormalities of brain anatomy and function. However, differences in spontaneous brain activity between myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-IgG ON and aquaporin 4(AQP4)-neuromyelitis optica-optic neuritis (ON) remain unknown. In the current study, we investigated the brain neural homogeneity in MOG-IgG ON versus AQP4-IgG NMO-ON subjects by regional homogeneity (ReHo) method using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Patients and methods: A total of 32 NMO-ON and ON subjects (21 with AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and 11 with MOG-IgG+ON) and 34 healthy controls (HCs) closely matched for age were recruited, and scans were performed for all subjects. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed to determine the regions in which the ReHo was different across the three groups. NMO-ON and ON subjects were distinguished from HCs by a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. The relationship between the mean ReHo in many brain regions and clinical features in NMO subjects was calculated by Pearson correlation analysis.
Results: Compared with HCs, MOG-IgG+ON subjects had significantly decreased ReHo values in the posterior lobe of the left cerebellum and increased ReHo values in the left inferior frontal gyrus, right prefrontal gyrus, and left precentral/postcentral gyrus. AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects showed higher ReHo values in the left inferior frontal gyrus and right middle temporal/occipital gyrus. Compared with MOG-IgG+ON subjects, AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects had lower ReHo values in the posterior lobe of the right cerebellum.AQP4-Ig+NMO-ON subjects showed higher ReHo values in the left precentral/postcentral gyrus and right superior temporal gyrus.
Conclusion: AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed abnormal synchronized neuronal activity in many brain regions, which is consistent with deficits in visual, motor, and cognitive function. Furthermore, different patterns of synchronized neuronal activity occurred in the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON.
Keywords: neuromyelitis optica-optic neuritis, MOG-IgG, AQP4-IgG, regional homogeneity, resting state, functional magnetic resonance imaging
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory demyelinating disorder. The prevalence of NMO ranges from 0.51/100,000 in Cuba to 4.4/100,000 in Southern Denmark.1 NMO leads to spinal cord lesions,2 as well as optic nerve impairments,3 and is characterized by the presence of aquaporin-4 (AQP4)-lgG+4 or myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-IgG+ autoantibodies.5 Compared with MOG-IgG+NMO, AQP4-IgG+NMO presents more frequently with optic neuritis (ON) and transverse myelitis.6 The MOG-IgG+NMO showed more retinal nerve fiber layer may be preserved than AQP4-IgG+NMO.7 Currently, corticosteroids and plasma exchange are effective treatment of acute NMO patients.8,9 Besides, immunosuppressive drugs such as mycophenolate mofetil and azathioprine have been shown to be effective in NMO disorders.10 A recent study demonstrated that rituximab therapy reduces the frequency of NMO relapses and neurological disability in NMO patients.11
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are used to evaluate pathological changes of the brain in NMO disorders. A previous study demonstrated that compared with AQP4+ disease, AQP4− NMO patients have a higher incidence of brain lesions and infratentorial lesions.12 Meanwhile, the AQP4 antibody-related disease and MOG antibody NMO were shown to be associated with different brain lesions.13 Liu et al14 found that NMO was associated with spinal cord atrophy and mild brain atrophy. However, NMO patients with cognitive impairment show atrophy in the deep gray matter (GM).15 Rivero et al16 demonstrated that NMO was accompanied by decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) values and increased mean diffusivity (MD) values in MRI images of the lesion sites in the cervical spinal cord using the DTI method. Moreover, NMO spectrum disorders showed that GM and white matter (WM) atrophy was correlated with retinal nerve fiber layers.17 NMO was also associated with abnormal structural and functional connectivity in the visual cortex.18 However, the abovementioned studies focused on anatomic abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord in NMO patients. Our understanding of spontaneous brain activity in NMO patients remains very limited.
Synchronized neuronal activity occurs in the normal human brain.19 Previous studies have indicated that synchronized neuronal activity plays a critical role in neural information processing.20–22 The regional homogeneity (ReHo) method, using resting-state fMRI (rs-fMRI) measurements, is believed to be a reliable and sensitive way to evaluate the coherence of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal among neighboring voxels of the whole brain at rest.23,24 Thus, the ReHo method can measure local synchronization of spontaneous fMRI signals and has been successfully applied to assess the spontaneous brain activity in many diseases such as major depressive disorder,25 sleep disorders,26 and Alzheimer’s disease.27 Moreover, Liang et al28 found that NMO patients have significant ReHo decreases in multiple brain regions.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the abnormal synchronization of neuronal activity in AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON patients. Furthermore, ReHo identified differences between the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON.
Materials and methods
The research protocol was approved by the medical ethics committee and Department of Ophthalmology, Chinese PLA General Hospital. A total of 32 NMO-ON and ON patients (22 with AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and 11 with MOG-IgG+ON) were recruited from the Department of Ophthalmology, Chinese PLA General Hospital. The inclusion criteria of the study in NMO29 and ON were as follows: 1) extended visual evoked potential (VEP) P100 latency periods (bilateral or unilateral); 2) acute ON; 3) optic nerve MRI with T2 − weighted hyper-intense lesion or T1-weighted gadolinium-enhancing lesion extending over >1/2 optic nerve length or involving optic chiasma; 4) positive serum AQP4-IgG or MOG-IgG. The exclusion criteria of the study in NMO and ON were as follows: 1) any evidence of compressive, ischemic, toxic, genetic, metabolic, or invasive optic neuropathy; 2) acute vision loss due to retinal disease, sympathetic ophthalmia, or nervous system disease; 3) obvious abnormality in brain parenchyma by brain MRI; 4) congenital or acquired diseases, such as psychiatric disorder, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or coronary artery disease, and no addictions such as heroin, smoking, or alcohol; 5) receipt of organ transplant; 6) extremely under or over weight (body mass index is <18.5 or > 24.9 kg/m2).
A total of 34 healthy controls (HCs; 18 males and 16 females) who were age status matched to subjects in the NMO-ON and ON groups were also recruited for this study. All HCs met the following criteria: 1) no ocular disease with uncorrected visual acuity (VA) > 1.0; 2) no psychiatric disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, or sleep disorders); and 3) able to be scanned with MRI (eg, not having a cardiac pacemaker or implanted metal devices).
The research methods in the study complied with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. All subjects were adults and informed of the purpose, methods, and potential risks entailed in the study before providing their written informed consent.
MRI scanning was performed on a 3 T MR scanner (Trio; GE Healthcare Europe GmbH, Freiburg, Germany). The whole-brain T1-weighted images were obtained with a spoiled gradient-recalled echo sequence with the following parameters: repetition time =1,900 ms, echo time =2.26 ms, thickness =1.0 mm, gap =0.5 mm, acquisition matrix =256 ×256, field of view =250×250 mm, and flip angle =9°. Functional images with the parameters, such as repetition time =2,000 ms, echo time =30 ms, thickness =4.0 mm, gap =1.2 mm, acquisition matrix =64×64, flip angle =90°, field of view =220×220 mm, 29 axial, were corrected.
fMRI data processing
The functional images were analyzed as described previously.30 Briefly, the data were filtered by software (www.MRIcro.com) and preprocessed using Statistical Parametric Mapping SPM8 (http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/) and Data Processing Assistant for rs-fMRI DPARSFA (http://rfmri.org/DPARSF) software.31 After head motion corrections and spatial smoothing, the fMRI images were de-trended and band pass filtered (0.01–0.08 Hz) to reduce the effects of low-frequency drift and physiological high-frequency respiratory and cardiac noise.32 Based on Kendall’s coefficient of concordance (KCC), each voxel in the brain was calculated voxel-wise by applying a cluster size of 26 voxels. ReHo computation was performed with REST (http://www.restfmri.net) software.23 Individual ReHo maps were generated by calculating the KCC of the time series of a given voxel with those of its nearest neighbors (26 voxels) in a voxel-wise manner with the formula:
where ReHo is the KCC for a given voxel, ranging from 0 to 1. When the ranked time series is more consistent with its adjacent ones, the KCC value is closer to 1; k is the voxel number among time series (in our study, k =27, including one given voxel that was located in the cubic center and its adjacent 26 voxels); n is the number of ranks; Ri is the sum rank of the ith time point, and R = (n + 1)/2*k/2 is the mean of the Ri’s. The KCC value refers to the central voxel among the cluster. The individual KCC ReHo map was generated on a voxel-wise basis for all data sets. To reduce the influence of individual variations in the KCC value, normalization of ReHo maps was performed by dividing the KCC among each voxel by the averaged KCC of the whole brain. The resulting fMRI data were then spatially smoothed with a Gaussian kernel of 6×6×6 mm3 full width at half maximum.
For the cumulative clinical measurements, chi-square test was used for gender and optic neuritis episode comparisons. Then, independent sample t-test was used for duration of NMO-ON or ON and time since last relapse comparisons. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Bonferroni post hoc test was used for age and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) comparisons using SPSS version 16.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).
A one-way ANOVA was used to identify regions in which the spontaneous activity pattern was different between the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON groups and HCs. We performed post hoc analysis tests after regressing out age and gender effects to compare the ReHo values between each pair of groups (P<0.01, cluster >40 voxels, and AlphaSim corrected).
The relationship between the mean ReHo value of NMO subjects and the clinical features was analyzed by a Pearson correlation analysis using SPSS version 16.0 (P<0.05 was considered to be a significant difference).
Demographics and visual measurements
AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed significantly higher scores in EDSS (P<0.001) compared with HCs. Meanwhile, NMO-ON or ON subjects showed significant difference in best-corrected VA-oculus dexter (OD) (P<0.001) and best-corrected VA-oculus sinister (OS) (P<0.001) compared with HCs. There were no significant differences in the age, gender, optic neuritis episodes, time since last relapse, and durations between the groups (Table 1).
A one-sample t-test was performed to extract the ReHo results across the subjects within each group (P<0.05). Intra-group comparisons within the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON and HCs groups are shown in Figure 1.
A one-way ANOVA was used to identify regions in which the spontaneous activity pattern was different across the three groups. Then, post hoc analysis tests were used to compare the ReHo values between each pair of groups.
AQP4-lgG+NMO-ON versus HCs
Compared with HCs, AQP4-lgG+NMO-ON subjects showed significantly decreased ReHo values in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG; Figure 2A and B [blue] and Table 2). AQP4-lgG+NMO-ON subjects showed increased ReHo values in the right middle temporal (MT)/occipital gyrus (Figure 2A and B [red] and Table 2) with P<0.01 for multiple comparisons using Gaussian random field (GRF) theory, (z >2.3, P<0.01, cluster >40 voxels, and AlphaSim corrected). The mean values of altered ReHo between the two groups are shown in Figure 2C.
AQP4-lgG+NMO-ON versus MOG-lgG+ON
Compared with MOG-IgG+ON subjects, AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects showed significantly decreased ReHo values in the left precentral/postcentral gyrus and right superior temporal gyrus (Figure 3A and B [blue] and Table 2); AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects showed increased ReHo values in the right cerebellum posterior lobe (CPL; Figure 3A and B [red] and Table 2) with P<0.01 for multiple comparisons using GRF theory (z >2.3, P<0.01, cluster >40 voxels, AlphaSim corrected). The mean values of altered ReHo between the two groups are shown in Figure 3C.
MOG-IgG+ON versus HCs
Compared with HCs, the MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed significantly decreased ReHo values in the posterior lobe of the left cerebellum (Figure 4A and B [blue] and Table 2). MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed increased ReHo values in the left IFG, right prefrontal gyrus, and left precentral/postcentral gyrus (Figure 4A and B [red] and Table 2) with P<0.01 for multiple comparisons using GRF theory (z >2.3, P<0.01, cluster >40 voxels, AlphaSim corrected). The mean values of altered ReHo between the two groups are shown in Figure 4C.
Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve
We speculated that the ReHo differences between the two groups might be useful diagnostic markers. Thus, the ROC curve method was used to assess the mean ReHo values in the different brain regions. The areas under the ROC curve were as follows: 0.780 for the left IFG (AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON > HCs, Figure 5A); 0.795 for the right MT/occipital gyrus (AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON < HCs, Figure 5B); 0.835 for the right CPL (AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON > MOG-IgG+ON, Figure 5C); 0.803 for the left precentral/postcentral gyrus; 0.855 for the right superior temporal gyrus (AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON < MOG-IgG+ON, Figure 5D); 0.884 for the right CPL (MOG-IgG+ON < HCs, Figure 5E); 0.925 for the left IFG; 0.869 for the right prefrontal gyrus; and 0.872 for the left precentral/postcentral gyrus (MOG-IgG+ON > HCs, Figure 5F).
ReHo is an effective and noninvasive rs-fMRI technique to assess synchronized neuronal activity in the brain. Our study is the first to compare synchronized neuronal activity levels occurring in AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON subjects. In the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON group, lower ReHo values are present in the right MT/occipital gyrus, while higher ReHo values are found in the left IFG (compared with the HCs). In the MOG-IgG+ON group, lower ReHo values are found in the posterior lobe of the left cerebellum, while higher ReHo values occur in the left IFG, right prefrontal gyrus, and left precentral/postcentral gyrus compared with the HCs. Furthermore, the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON group showed lower ReHo values in the left precentral/postcentral gyrus and right superior temporal gyrus and higher ReHo values in the posterior lobe of the right cerebellum compared with the MOG-IgG+ON group.
Analysis of different ReHo values of AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects and HCs
The MT visual area, known as the visual cortex 5, is located in the region of the extrastriate visual cortex. The MT plays a critical role in processing visual motion33,34 and is involved in eye movements.35 Liang et al28 demonstrated that NMO patients have “deceased” ReHo values in the right MT gyrus. In addition, Wang et al36 reported that NMO is associated with markedly decreased GM volume in the temporal cortices. Given these findings, we found that the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects had decreased ReHo values in the right MT gyrus, which indicated the dysfunction of these loci. Thus, we speculated that the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects might have impairment of the visual motion control on the basis of dysfunction in these temporal lobe zones.
The occipital lobe contains the visual cortex and plays an important role in visual processing. The visual cortex mainly includes visual areas V1, V2, V3, V4, and V5. There are two primary visual pathways comprising a ventral stream and a dorsal stream.37 Pichiecchio et al38 demonstrated that NMO patients have significantly decreased GM in the visual cortex. Meanwhile, Ringelstein et al39 reported that there are reduced amplitudes and prolonged latencies in VEPs recorded in the eyes of AQP4-IgG+NMO patients. In support of these findings, in our study, the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON group showed lower ReHo values in the right occipital gyrus, which reflected dysfunction in the occipital gyrus. Therefore, our results suggest that AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects have impairment of the visual cortex.
The IFG is the part of the frontal gyrus that is involved in phonologic and semantic operations.40 The IFG played a critical role in cognitive control.41,42 In our study, we found that AQP4-IgG+ON subjects showed higher ReHo values in the left IFG, indicating the hyperfunction of the IFG. We speculated that AQP4-IgG+ON patients might be associated with dysfunction of cognitive control.
Analysis of different ReHo values between MOG-lgG+ON subjects and HCs
The posterior lobe of the CPL is located below the primary fissure. The cerebellum plays a critical role in motor control43 and is involved in motor learning44 and ocular motor control.45 Recent research demonstrated that the cerebellum is closely related to cognition.46,47 Rocca et al48 found that the Devic’s NMO was associated with increased activation in the sensorimotor network, including the cerebellum. Our study also demonstrated that MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed decreased ReHo values in the left CPL; this might suggest the dysfunction of the left CPL. Thus, we speculated that in MOG-lgG+ON subjects, this might lead to the impairment of motor control.
As with the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects, we also found that the MOG-IgG+ON subjects had increased ReHo values in the left IFG. We speculated that MOG-IgG+ON subjects might have dysfunction of cognitive control.
The prefrontal gyrus comprises the anterior part of the frontal lobe and is involved in executive functions,49 spatial attention,50 and emotion and cognition.51,52 Previous studies demonstrated that NMO patients have impaired cognition.53,54 Chanson et al55 found that NMO patients had regions of atrophy of GM in the prefrontal cortex. Consistent with these findings, we found that our MOG-IgG+ON subjects had increased ReHo values in the right prefrontal gyrus, which indicated hyperactivity. Therefore, we speculated that MOG-IgG+ON subjects might have dysfunction of cognition and emotion.
The precentral gyrus is located on the surface of the posterior frontal lobe and is the site of the primary motor cortex. The precentral gyrus plays an important role in movement56 quantity and frequency.57 The postcentral gyrus is the location of the primary somatosensory cortex, which is involved in information processing of tactile stimuli.58 The primary somatosensory cortex plays a critical role in pain perception.59 Duan et al60 found that NMO patients have lower WM volumes in the right precentral and postcentral gyri. Furthermore, NMO patients had impairment of their sensorimotor systems.61 In our study, we demonstrated that MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed increased ReHo values in the left precentral/postcentral gyrus. Our result suggested that MOG-IgG+ON subjects might end up with impairment of the sensorimotor dysfunction.
Analysis of different ReHo values in AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON subjects
In our study, the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON group showed lower ReHo values in the left precentral/postcentral gyrus and right superior temporal gyrus and higher ReHo values in the right CPL compared with the MOG-IgG+ON group. The superior temporal gyrus was involved in auditory processing.62,63 We speculated that the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON group showed lesser synchronized neuronal activity in the sensory motor and auditory cortex than the MOG-IgG+ON group. Moreover, MOG-IgG+ON subjects had more synchronized neuronal activity in the motor control areas than AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON subjects.
Our results demonstrated that AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON subjects showed abnormal synchronization of their neuronal activity in many brain regions, consistent with deficits in the visual, motor, and cognitive function. Furthermore, we also found altered synchronization of neuronal activity in the AQP4-IgG+NMO-ON and MOG-IgG+ON groups. ReHo values might prove to be a useful clinical indicator of dysfunctional brain activity in NMO subjects.
The authors thank the following authors who collected the fMRI data of the study: Mingge Li, Huanfen Zhou, Honglu Song, Da Teng, Dahe Lin, and Nanping Ai. This was not an industry-supported study. This work was supported by a grant from the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (863 Program; No 2015AAO20511).
The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.
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