Intensity ratio to improve black hole assessment in multiple sclerosis

Gautam Adusumilli, Kathryn Trinkaus, Peng Sun, Samantha Lancia, Jeffrey D. Viox, Jie Wen, Robert T. Naismith, Anne H. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background Improved imaging methods are critical to assess neurodegeneration and remyelination in multiple sclerosis. Chronic hypointensities observed on T1-weighted brain MRI, “persistent black holes,” reflect severe focal tissue damage. Present measures consist of determining persistent black holes numbers and volumes, but do not quantitate severity of individual lesions. Objective Develop a method to differentiate black and gray holes and estimate the severity of individual multiple sclerosis lesions using standard magnetic resonance imaging. Methods 38 multiple sclerosis patients contributed images. Intensities of lesions on T1-weighted scans were assessed relative to cerebrospinal fluid intensity using commercial software. Magnetization transfer imaging, diffusion tensor imaging and clinical testing were performed to assess associations with T1w intensity-based measures. Results Intensity-based assessments of T1w hypointensities were reproducible and achieved > 90% concordance with expert rater determinations of “black” and “gray” holes. Intensity ratio values correlated with magnetization transfer ratios (R = 0.473) and diffusion tensor imaging metrics (R values ranging from 0.283 to −0.531) that have been associated with demyelination and axon loss. Intensity ratio values incorporated into T1w hypointensity volumes correlated with clinical measures of cognition. Conclusions This method of determining the degree of hypointensity within multiple sclerosis lesions can add information to conventional imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-147
Number of pages8
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Axonal loss
  • MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Outcome measurement
  • Quantitative MRI
  • T1w hypointensity


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