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Toward quantitative neuroimaging biomarkers for Friedreich's ataxia at 7 Tesla: Susceptibility mapping, diffusion imaging, R 2 and R 1 relaxometry

Ten (Friedreich's ataxia) FRDA patients (mean age 37 ± 14 years; four female) and 10 age- and sex-matched controls were included. Acquisition of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data for quantitative susceptibility mapping, R1 , R2 relaxometry and diffusion imaging was performed at 7 Tesla. Results of volume of interest (VOI)-based analyses of the quantitative data were compared with a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) evaluation. Differences between patients and controls were assessed using the analysis of covariance (ANCOVA; p < 0.01) with age and sex as covariates, effect size of group differences, and correlations with disease characteristics with Spearman correlation coefficient. For the VBM analysis, a statistical threshold of 0.001 for uncorrected and 0.05 for corrected p-values was used. Statistically significant differences between FRDA patients and controls were found in five out of twelve investigated structures, and statistically significant correlations with disease characteristics were revealed. Moreover, VBM revealed significant white matter atrophy within regions of the brainstem, and the cerebellum. These regions overlapped partially with brain regions for which significant differences between healthy controls and patients were found in the VOI-based quantitative MRI evaluation. It was shown that two independent analyses provided overlapping results. Moreover, positive results on correlations with disease characteristics were found, indicating that these quantitative MRI parameters could provide more detailed information and assist the search for effective treatments.

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