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The primary pathological mechanisms in stroke and multiple sclerosis (MS) are very different but in both diseases, impairment may arise from a final common pathway of axonal damage. We aimed to examine the relationship between motor impairment, magnetisation transfer ratio (MTR) (an index of demyelination), and N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) loss (an index of axonal injury) localised to the descending motor pathways in stroke and MS. Twelve patients between 1 and 10 months after first ischaemic stroke causing a motor deficit and 12 patients with stable MS with asymmetric motor deficit were examined. T(2)-weighted imaging of the brain together with MTR and proton (voxel 1.5x2x2 cm(3)) MRS localised to the posterior limb of the internal capsule were performed and correlated to a composite motor deficit score. MTR and NAA in the internal capsule were reduced in both stroke and MS patients compared to controls. NAA loss correlated with motor deficit score in both stroke and MS (p<0.001 and p = 0.04, respectively). Correlations were seen between MTR and motor deficit (p<0.001) MTR and NAA loss (p <0.001) in stroke patients but not in MS patients. Axonal injury in the descending motor tracts would appear to be an important determinant of motor impairment in both stroke and MS. In stroke, MTR measures of demyelination are closely related to axonal damage and thus also correlate with motor deficit. However in MS, MTR measures of demyelination do not correlate with NAA loss or motor deficit suggesting that demyelination and gliosis may occur independently of axonal damage and are less closely linked with functional impairment.


Journal article


Magn Reson Imaging

Publication Date





369 - 378


Adult, Aged, Aspartic Acid, Axons, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Internal Capsule, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Middle Aged, Movement Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Myelin Sheath, Stroke