White matter volume loss in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A meta-analysis of voxel-based morphometry studies

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Structural neuroimaging studies of white matter (WM) volume in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) have yielded inconsistent findings. This study aimed to perform a quantitative voxel-based meta-analysis using effect-size signed differential mapping (ES-SDM) to establish a statistical consensus between published studies for WM volume alterations in ALS. The pooled meta-analysis revealed significant WM volume losses in the bilateral supplementary motor areas (SMAs), bilateral precentral gyri (PGs), left middle cerebellar peduncle and right cerebellum in patients with ALS, involving the corticospinal tract (CST), interhemispheric fibers, subcortical arcuate fibers, projection fibers to the striatum and cortico-ponto-cerebellar tract. The meta-regression showed that the ALS functional rating scale–revised (ALSFRS-R) was positively correlated with decreased WM volume in the bilateral SMAs, whereas illness duration was negatively correlated with WM volume reduction in the right SMA. This study provides a thorough profile of WM volume loss in ALS and robust evidence that ALS is a multisystem neurodegenerative disease that involves a variety of subcortical WM tracts extending beyond motor cortex involvement.

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