White matter changes associated with cognitive visual dysfunctions in children with cerebral palsy: A diffusion tensor imaging study

Date Published:

2018 Jun 12


Children with cerebral palsy often present with cognitive-visual dysfunctions characterized by visuo-perceptual and/or visuo-spatial deficits associated with a malfunctioning of visual-associative areas. The neurofunctional model of this condition remains poorly understood due to the lack of a clear correlation between cognitive-visual deficit and morphological brain anomalies. The aim of our study was to quantify the pattern of white matter abnormalities within the whole brain in children with cerebral palsy, and to identify white matter tracts sub-serving cognitive-visual functions, in order to better understand the basis of cognitive-visual processing. Nine subjects (three males, mean age 8 years 9 months) with cerebral palsy underwent a visual and cognitive-visual evaluation. Conventional brain MRI and diffusion tensor imaging were performed. The fractional anisotropy maps were calculated for every child and compared with data from 13 (four males, mean age 10 years 7 months) healthy children. Children with cerebral palsy showed decreased fractional anisotropy (a marker of white matter integrity) in corticospinal tract bilaterally, left superior longitudinal fasciculus and bilateral hippocampus. Focusing on the superior longitudinal fasciculus, the mean fractional anisotropy values were significantly lower in children affected by cerebral palsy with cognitive-visual deficits than in those without cognitive-visual deficits. Our findings reveal an association between cognitive-visual profile and the superior longitudinal fasciculus integrity in children with cerebral palsy, supporting the hypothesis that visuo-associative deficits are related to changes in fibers connecting the occipital cortex with the parietal-frontal cortices. Decreased fractional anisotropy within the superior longitudinal fasciculus could be considered a biomarker for cognitive-visual dysfunctions.