UBC Faculty Research and Publications

White matter is increased in the brains of adults with neurofibromatosis 1 Wang, Su; Friedman, J. M. (Jan Marshall), 1947-; Suppa, Per; Buchert, Ralph; Mautner, Victor-Felix


Background Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) is a rare autosomal dominant disease characterized by increased Schwann cell proliferation in peripheral nerves. Several small studies of brain morphology in children with NF1 have found increased total brain volume, total white matter volume and/or corpus callosum area. Some studies (mostly in children with NF1) also attempted to correlate changes in brain morphology and volume with cognitive or behavioural abnormalities, although the findings were inconsistent. We aimed to characterize alterations in brain volumes by three-dimensional (3D) MRI in adults with NF1 in major intracranial sub-regions. We also aimed to assess the effect of age on these volumes and correlated brain white matter and grey matter volumes with neuropsychometric findings in adults with NF1. Methods We obtained brain volume measurements using 3D magnetic resonance imaging for 351 adults with NF1 and, as a comparison group, 43 adults with neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) or Schwannomatosis. We assessed a subset of 19 adults with NF1 for clinical severity of NF1 features and neurological problems and conducted psychometric testing for attention deficiencies and intelligence quotient. We compared brain volumes between NF1 patients and controls and correlated volumetric measurements to clinical and psychometric features in the NF1 patients. Results Total brain volume and total and regional white matter volumes were all significantly increased in adults with NF1. Grey matter volume decreased faster with age in adults with NF1 than in controls. Greater total brain volume and white matter volume were correlated with lower attention deficits and higher intelligence quotients in adults with NF1. Conclusion Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that dysregulation of brain myelin production is a cardinal manifestation of NF1 and that these white matter changes may be functionally important in affected adults.

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