A study of brain white matter plasticity in early blinds using tract-based spatial statistics and tract statistical analysis.

PMID 26559727


Early blind individuals are known to exhibit structural brain reorganization. Particularly, early-onset blindness may trigger profound brain alterations that affect not only the visual system but also the remaining sensory systems. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) allows in-vivo visualization of brain white matter connectivity, and has been extensively used to study brain white matter structure. Among statistical approaches based on DTI, tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) is widely used because of its ability to automatically perform whole brain white matter studies. Tract specific analysis (TSA) is a more recent method that localizes changes in specific white matter bundles. In the present study, we compare TBSS and TSA results of DTI scans from 12 early blind individuals and 13 age-matched sighted controls, with two aims: (a) to investigate white matter alterations associated with early visual deprivation; (b) to examine the relative sensitivity of TSA when compared with TBSS, for both deficit and hypertrophy of white matter microstructures. Both methods give consistent results for broad white matter regions of deficits. However, TBSS does not detect hypertrophy of white matter, whereas TSA shows a higher sensitivity in detecting subtle differences in white matter colocalized to the posterior parietal lobe.