Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Ponnada A. Narayana, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Khader M. Hasan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ruth Heidelberger, M.D.,Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joel L. Steinberg, M.D

Committee Member

Jerry S. Wolinsky, M.D.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system. There is no cure for MS and current therapies have limited efficacy. While the majority of individuals with MS develop significant clinical disability, a subset experiences a disease course with minimal impairment even in the presence of significant apparent tissue damage on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The current studies combined functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to elucidate brain mechanisms associated with lack of clinical disability in patients with MS. Recent evidence has implicated cortical reorganization as a mechanism to limit the clinical manifestation of the disease. Functional MRI was used to test the hypothesis that non-disabled MS patients (Expanded Disability Status Scale ≤ 1.5) show increased recruitment of cognitive control regions (dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) while performing sensory, motor and cognitive tasks. Compared to matched healthy controls, patients increased activation of cognitive control brain regions when performing non-dominant hand movements and the 2-back working memory task. Using dynamic causal modeling, we tested whether increased cognitive control recruitment is associated with alterations in connectivity in the working memory functional network. Patients exhibited similar network connectivity to that of control subjects when performing working memory tasks. We subsequently investigated the integrity of major white matter tracts to assess structural connectivity and its relation to activation and functional integration of the cognitive control system. Patients showed substantial alterations in callosal, inferior and posterior white matter tracts and less pronounced involvement of the corticospinal tracts and superior longitudinal fasciculi (SLF). Decreased structural integrity within the right SLF in patients was associated with decreased performance, and decreased activation and connectivity of the cognitive control system when performing working memory tasks. These studies suggest that patient with MS without clinical disability increase cognitive control system recruitment across functional domains and rely on preserved functional and structural connectivity of brain regions associated with this network. Moreover, the current studies show the usefulness of combining brain activation data from functional MRI and structural connectivity data from DTI to improve our understanding of brain adaptation mechanisms to neurological disease.


multiple sclerosis, functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, cortical reorganization, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, effective connectivity, cognitive control, dynamic causal modeling, structural connectivity