Neurofibromatosis type-1 (NF-1) is the most common autosomal dominant disorder affecting the central nervous system. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revealed distinctive T2-weighted hyperintense foci (termed unidentified bright objects, UBOs) which appear to represent spongiform changes in the white matter. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses suggest that UBOs disappear over time; however, none of these studies have examined comprehensively these foci. We conducted a quantitative MRI longitudinal study of number of affected regions, number of UBOs per region, and UBO volume per region, in a sample of 12 children with NF-1. We applied semi-automatic morphometric methods and comprehensive statistical approaches, within a detailed anatomical parcellation framework. Our data demonstrate that, despite a similar UBO regional distribution (e.g., prevalent globus pallidus/internal capsule (GP/IC) location), UBO evolution was more complex than previously reported. In some subjects, the total number of UBO-occupied locations demonstrated a decrease between approximately ages 7 and 12 years, followed by a progressive increase during adolescence. This pattern was also found for UBO number and/or volume for all regions, with the exception of the cerebellar hemispheres. This REGIONAL distinction may reflect differences in white matter structure between affected long tract fiber bundles and that of cerebral and cerebellar myelinated fibers. The findings are also discussed in the context of previous MR and behavioral studies. We conclude that studies like the present one, in association with other MR modalities, are necessary to characterize more completely the nature and evolution of UBOs and their role in the cognitive phenotype of NF-1.
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