White matter disruptions related to inattention and autism spectrum symptoms in tuberous sclerosis complex

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Tuberous sclerosis complex is a rare genetic multisystem condition that is associated with a high prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The underlying neural mechanisms of the emergence of these symptom domains in tuberous sclerosis complex remain unclear.

Here, we use fixel-based analysis of diffusion-weighted imaging, which allows for the differentiation between multiple fibre populations within a voxel, to compare white matter properties in 16 participants with tuberous sclerosis complex (aged 11–19) and 12 age and sex matched control participants. We further tested associations between white matter alterations and autism and inattention symptoms as well as cognitive ability in participants with tuberous sclerosis complex.

Compared to controls, participants with tuberous sclerosis complex showed reduced fibre density cross-section (FDC) in the dorsal branch of right superior longitudinal fasciculus and bilateral inferior longitudinal fasciculus, reduced fibre density (FD) in bilateral tapetum, and reduced fibre cross-section (FC) in the ventral branch of right superior longitudinal fasciculus. In participants with tuberous sclerosis complex, the extent of FDC reductions in right superior longitudinal fasciculus was significantly associated with autism traits (social communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive behaviours), whereas FDC reductions in right inferior longitudinal fasciculus were associated with inattention. The observed white matter alterations were unrelated to cognitive ability.

Our findings shed light on the fibre-specific biophysical properties of white matter alterations in tuberous sclerosis complex and suggest that these regional changes are selectively associated with the severity of neurodevelopmental symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103163
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date27 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Aug 2022


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