PURPOSE. Glaucoma is a disorder that involves visual field loss caused by retinal ganglion cell damage. Previous diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) studies have demonstrated that retinal ganglion cell damage affects tissues in the optic tract (OT) and optic radiation (OR). However, because previous studies have used a simple diffusion tensor model to analyze dMRI data, the microstructural interpretation of white matter tissue changes remains uncertain. In this study, we used a multi-contrast MRI approach to further clarify the type of microstructural damage that occurs in patients with glaucoma. METHODS. We collected dMRI data from 17 patients with glaucoma and 30 controls using 3-tesla (3T) MRI. Using the dMRI data, we estimated three types of tissue property metrics: intracellular volume fraction (ICVF), orientation dispersion index (ODI), and isotropic volume fraction (IsoV). Quantitative T1 (qT1) data, which may be relatively specific to myelin, were collected from all subjects. RESULTS. In the OT, all four metrics showed significant differences between the glaucoma and control groups. In the OR, only the ICVF showed significant between-group differences. ICVF was significantly correlated with qT1 in the OR of the glaucoma group, although qT1 did not show any abnormality at the group level. CONCLUSIONS. Our results suggest that, at the group level, tissue changes in OR caused by glaucoma might be explained by axonal damage, which is reflected in the intracellular diffusion signals, rather than myelin damage. The significant correlation between ICVF and qT1 suggests that myelin damage might also occur in a smaller number of severe cases.
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