Local volume fraction distributions of axons, astrocytes, and myelin in deep subcortical white matter

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This study aims to statistically describe histologically stained white matter brain sections to subsequently inform and validate diffusion MRI techniques. For the first time, we characterise volume fraction distributions of three of the main structures in deep subcortical white matter (axons, astrocytes, and myelinated axons) in a representative cohort of an ageing population for which well-characterized neuropathology data is available. We analysed a set of samples from 90 subjects of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS), stratified into three groups of 30 subjects each, in relation to the presence of age-associated deep subcortical lesions. This provides volume fraction distributions in different scenarios relevant to brain diffusion MRI in dementia. We also assess statistically significant differences found between these groups. In agreement with previous literature, our results indicate that white matter lesions are related with a decrease in the myelinated axons fraction and an increase in astrocytic fraction, while no statistically significant changes occur in axonal mean fraction. In addition, we introduced a framework to quantify volume fraction distributions from 2D immunohistochemistry images, which is validated against in silico simulations. Since a trade-off between precision and resolution emerged, we also performed an assessment of the optimal scale for computing such distributions.HighlightsAxon, myelin and astrocyte local volume fraction distributions are first reported.Elderly populations with various degrees of deep subcortical lesions were analysed.Statistical modeling allows accurate volume fraction estimation from slice microscopy.Significant demyelination and astrogliosis associate with deep subcortical Lesions.

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