Whole-brain N-acetyl aspartate (NAA), a measure of neuronal function, can be assessed by multislice echo-planar spectroscopic imaging.
To test the hypothesis that the global brain NAA/creatine (Cr) ratio is a better predictor of cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis than conventional magnetic resonance imaging measures.
Twenty patients, 16 women and 4 men (mean age, 36 years), with early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (mean Expanded Disability Status Scale score, 2.5).
Main Outcome Measures
Correlation between the global NAA/Cr ratio and a cognitive dysfunction factor comprising 16 measures from an extensive neuropsychological test battery that best distinguished patients with multiple sclerosis from healthy control subjects.
A significant partial correlation between the global NAA/Cr ratio and the cognitive dysfunction factor was found (partial r = 0.62, P = .01), and 9 cognitively impaired patients had significantly lower global NAA/Cr ratios than 11 unimpaired patients (P = .04). No significant correlations were found between the cognitive dysfunction factor and conventional magnetic resonance imaging measures (ie, brain parenchymal fraction and lesion volume).
Multislice echo-planar spectroscopic imaging provides global metabolic measures that distinguish between cognitively impaired and unimpaired patients with multiple sclerosis and correlate with a global cognitive measure. Standardization of the technique is needed, and larger-scale studies that include healthy controls are suggested.