BACKGROUND: Reports on the relationships between white matter lesion load (WMLL) and fatigue and anxiety in multiple sclerosis (MS) are inconsistent.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association of total and tract-specific WMLL with fatigue and anxiety.
METHODS: Total and regional T2 WMLL was assessed for 19 tracts in 48 MS patients (30 females). ICBM-DTI-81 Atlas-based parcellation was combined with WMLL segmentation of T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Fatigue, anxiety, and depression were assessed using Fatigue Impact Scale, State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory, respectively.
RESULTS: Fatigue, anxiety, and depression showed significant inter-correlation. We found no association between fatigue and total or regional WMLLs, whereas anxiety was associated with total and regional WMLLs in nine tracts. After adjusting for total WMLL, age, and depression, only the column and body of the fornix (CBF) remained significantly associated with anxiety. Post hoc analyses showed no CBF lesions on T1-weighted MRI and suggested, but could not confirm, that the septum pellucidum might play a role in the pathogenesis of anxiety.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that anxiety in MS patients may have a neuropathological substrate in the septo-fornical area, which requires further validation using larger sample size and ultra-high-field MRI in targeted prospective studies.