Clinical Correlations of Brain Lesion Location in Multiple Sclerosis: Voxel-Based Analysis of a Large Clinical Trial Dataset

Anna Altermatt, Laura Gaetano, Stefano Magon, Dieter A. Häring, Davorka Tomic, Jens Wuerfel, Ernst Wilhelm Radue, Ludwig Kappos, Till Sprenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


There is a limited correlation between white matter (WM) lesion load as determined by magnetic resonance imaging and disability in multiple sclerosis (MS). The reasons for this so-called clinico-radiological paradox are diverse and may, at least partly, relate to the fact that not just the overall lesion burden, but also the exact anatomical location of lesions predict the severity and type of disability. We aimed at studying the relationship between lesion distribution and disability using a voxel-based lesion probability mapping approach in a very large dataset of MS patients. T2-weighted lesion masks of 2348 relapsing-remitting MS patients were spatially normalized to standard stereotaxic space by non-linear registration. Relations between supratentorial WM lesion locations and disability measures were assessed using a non-parametric ANCOVA (Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS]; Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite, and subscores; Modified Fatigue Impact Scale) or multinomial ordinal logistic regression (EDSS functional subscores). Data from 1907 (81%) patients were included in the analysis because of successful registration. The lesion mapping showed similar areas to be associated with the different disability scales: periventricular regions in temporal, frontal, and limbic lobes were predictive, mainly affecting the posterior thalamic radiation, the anterior, posterior, and superior parts of the corona radiata. In summary, significant associations between lesion location and clinical scores were found in periventricular areas. Such lesion clusters appear to be associated with impairment of different physical and cognitive abilities, probably because they affect commissural and long projection fibers, which are relevant WM pathways supporting many different brain functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)886-894
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Lesion probability map
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Motor impairment
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • White matter


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