Pain and Neuroinflammation Imaging Lab

Association of the tissue microstructural diffusivity and translocator protein PET in Gulf War Illness


Cheng, C.-H., et al., 2021. Association of the tissue microstructural diffusivity and translocator protein PET in Gulf War Illness. Brain Behav Immun Health , 18 , pp. 100364.


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Date Published:

2021 Dec


About a third of all United States veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War (GW) report a range of chronic health symptoms including fatigue, neurocognitive symptoms, and musculoskeletal pain. There is growing evidence supporting the detrimental effects of maladaptive neuroimmune reactions in this multi-symptom illness. Indeed, recent studies using positron emission tomography (PET) using the radioligand [11C]PBR28, which binds the neuroinflammation marker 18 ​kDa translocator protein (TSPO), and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) have independently identified the anterior cingulate (ACC) and midcingulate cortices (MCC) as key regions for differentiating GWI veterans from healthy controls (HC). Here, we used integrated (i.e., simultaneous) PET/MRI imaging techniques, paired with dMRI processing methods (neurite density imaging, NDI, and free-water diffusion tensor model to single-shell high-order dMRI), to directly evaluate the relationship between ACC and MCC microstructural tissue parameters, TSPO signal and clinical parameters in the same cohorts of 10 GWI veterans and 19 ​HCs. Within the regions evaluated, TSPO signal elevations were associated with restricted diffusivity in the extracellular compartment, while clinical measures were best explained by neurite density and cellular structure complexity measures. Our study is the first to provide evidence of a relationship between PET and dMRI modalities in GWI and suggests that microstructural changes in the ACC and MCC are correlated to mood symptoms and cognitive performances in GWI veterans.

Last updated on 11/11/2021