MRI-based measures of intracortical myelin are sensitive to a history of TBI and are associated with functional connectivity

Evan M. Gordon, Geoffrey J. May, Steven M. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) induce persistent behavioral and cognitive deficits via diffuse axonal injury. Axonal injuries are often examined in vivo using diffusion MRI, which identifies damaged and demyelinated regions in deep white matter. However, TBI patients can exhibit impairment in the absence of diffusion-measured abnormalities, suggesting that axonal injury and demyelination may occur outside the deep white matter. Importantly, myelinated axons are also present within the cortex. Cortical myelination cannot be measured using diffusion imaging, but can be mapped in-vivo using the T1-w/T2-w ratio method. Here, we conducted the first work examining effects of TBI on intracortical myelin in living humans by applying myelin mapping to 46 US Military Veterans with a history of TBI. We observed that myelin maps could be created in TBI patients that matched known distributions of cortical myelin. After controlling for age and presence of blast injury, the number of lifetime TBIs was associated with reductions in the T1-w/T2-w ratio across the cortex, most significantly in a highly-myelinated lateral occipital region corresponding with the human MT+ complex. Further, the T1-w/T2-w ratio in this MT+ region predicted resting-state functional connectivity of that region. By contrast, a history of blast TBI did not affect the T1-w/T2-w ratio in either a diffuse or focal pattern. These findings suggest that intracortical myelin, as measured using the T1-w/T2-w ratio, may be a TBI biomarker that is anatomically complementary to diffusion MRI. Thus, myelin mapping could potentially be combined with diffusion imaging to improve MRI-based diagnostic tools for TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Oct 15 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Career Development Award # 1IK2CX001680 from the US Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Sciences Research and Development Service , and by VA VISN17 Center of Excellence pilot funding. The contents of this manuscript do not represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • Biomarker
  • Functional connectivity
  • Intracortical myelin
  • MRI
  • Traumatic brain injury


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