Reduced rich-club connectivity is related to disability in primary progressive MS

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To investigate whether the structural connectivity of the brain's rich-club organization is altered in patients with primary progressive MS and whether such changes to this fundamental network feature are associated with disability measures.


We recruited 37 patients with primary progressive MS and 21 healthy controls for an observational cohort study. Structural connectomes were reconstructed based on diffusion-weighted imaging data using probabilistic tractography and analyzed with graph theory.


We observed the same topological organization of brain networks in patients and controls. Consistent with the originally defined rich-club regions, we identified superior frontal, precuneus, superior parietal, and insular cortex in both hemispheres as rich-club nodes. Connectivity within the rich club was significantly reduced in patients with MS (p = 0.039). The extent of reduced rich-club connectivity correlated with clinical measurements of mobility (Kendall rank correlation coefficient τ = −0.20, p = 0.047), hand function (τ = −0.26, p = 0.014), and information processing speed (τ = −0.20, p = 0.049).


In patients with primary progressive MS, the fundamental organization of the structural connectome in rich-club and peripheral nodes was preserved and did not differ from healthy controls. The proportion of rich-club connections was altered and correlated with disability measures. Thus, the rich-club organization of the brain may be a promising network phenotype for understanding the patterns and mechanisms of neurodegeneration in MS.

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