Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease associated with exposure to repetitive head impacts. CTE has been linked to disruptions in cognition, mood, and behavior. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of CTE can only be made post-mortem. Neuropathological evidence suggests limbic structures may provide an opportunity to characterize CTE in the living. Using 3 T magnetic resonance imaging, we compared select limbic brain regional volumes - the amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus - between symptomatic former National Football League (NFL) players (n = 86) and controls (n = 22). Moreover, within the group of former NFL players, we examined the relationship between those limbic structures and neurobehavioral functioning (n = 75). The former NFL group comprised eighty-six men (mean age = 55.2 ± 8.0 years) with at least 12 years of organized football experience, at least 2 years of active participation in the NFL, and self-reported declines in cognition, mood, and behavior within the last 6 months. The control group consisted of men (mean age = 57.0 ± 6.6 years) with no history of contact-sport involvement or traumatic brain injury. All control participants provided neurobehavioral data. Compared to controls, former NFL players exhibited reduced volumes of the amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus. Within the NFL group, reduced bilateral cingulate gyrus volume was associated with worse attention and psychomotor speed (r = 0.4 (right), r = 0.42 (left); both p < 0.001), while decreased right hippocampal volume was associated with worse visual memory (r = 0.25, p = 0.027). Reduced volumes of limbic system structures in former NFL players are associated with neurocognitive features of CTE. Volume reductions in the amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus may be potential biomarkers of neurodegeneration in those at risk for CTE.
Computational methods are crucial for the analysis of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Computational diffusion MRI can provide rich information at many size scales, including local microstructure measures such as diffusion anisotropies or apparent axon diameters, whole-brain connectivity information that describes the brain's wiring diagram and population-based studies in health and disease. Many of the diffusion MRI analyses performed today were not possible five, ten or twenty years ago, due to the requirements for large amounts of computer memory or processor time. In addition, mathematical frameworks had to be developed or adapted from other fields to create new ways to analyze diffusion MRI data. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent computational and statistical advances in diffusion MRI and to put these advances into context by comparison with the more traditional computational methods that are in popular clinical and scientific use. We aim to provide a high-level overview of interest to diffusion MRI researchers, with a more in-depth treatment to illustrate selected computational advances.