An MRI evaluation of grey matter damage in African Americans with MS

Maria Petracca, Wafaa Zaaraoui, Sirio Cocozza, Roxana Vancea, Jonathan Howard, Monika M. Heinig, Lazar Fleysher, Niels Oesingmann, Jean Philippe Ranjeva, Matilde Inglese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is less prevalent in African Americans (AAs) than Caucasians (CAs) but in the former the disease course tends to be more severe. In order to clarify the MRI correlates of disease severity in AAs, we performed a multimodal brain MRI study to comprehensively assess the extent of grey matter (GM) damage and the degree of functional adaptation to structural damage in AAs with MS. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we characterized GM damage in terms of focal lesions and volume loss and functional adaptation during the execution of a simple motor task on a sample of 20 AAs and 20 CAs with MS and 20 healthy controls (CTRLs). Results: In AAs, we observed a wider range of EDSS scores than CAs, with multisystem involvement being more likely in AAs (p < 0.01). While no significant differences were detected in lesion loads and global brain volumes, AAs showed regional atrophy in the posterior lobules of cerebellum, temporo-occipital and frontal regions in comparison with CAs (p < 0.01), with cerebellar atrophy being the best metric in differentiating AAs from CAs (p = 0.007, AUC = 0.96 and p = 0.005, AUC = 0.96, respectively for right and left cerebellar clusters). In AAs, the functional analysis of cortical activations showed an increase in task-related activation of areas involved in high level processing and a decreased activation in the medial prefrontal cortex compared to CAs. Interpretation: In our study, the direct comparison of AAs and CAs points to cerebellar atrophy as the main difference between subgroups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • African Americans
  • Grey matter
  • Multiple Sclerosis


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