State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China and Department of Medical Imaging and Interventional Radiology, Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou, China.
Many studies have reported that cognitive deficits exist in cirrhotic patients without overt hepatic encephalopathy (OHE). However, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these deficits are still not fully understood.
To investigate regional activity abnormalities in patients with hepatitis B virus-related cirrhosis (HBV-RC) without OHE using resting-state functional MRI (Rs-fMRI), and to examine the relationship between regional activity abnormalities and impaired cognition.
A newly reported regional homogeneity (ReHo) approach was used to compare the local synchronization of Rs-fMRI signals in 32 patients with HBV-RC without OHE and 32 well-matched healthy controls. Cognition was measured in all patients using psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (PHES) tests, and the relationship between ReHo variation and PHES was analysed.
Relative to healthy controls, the cirrhosis group showed high ReHo in the prefrontal cortex, and widespread low ReHo in visual association areas (left lingual gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and right middle occipital gyrus), motor association areas (bilateral precentral gyrus and paracentral lobule) and the bilateral precuneus. Correlation analysis of the mean ReHo values in different brain areas and PHES in cirrhotic patients revealed a significantly positive correlation in the left lingual gyrus (r = 0.352; P = 0.048), right middle occipital gyrus (r = 0.453; P = 0.009) and bilateral precentral gyrus (left: r = 0.436, P = 0.013; right: r = 0.582, P < 0.001), paracentral lobule (r = 0.485; P = 0.005) and precuneus (r = 0.468; P = 0.007).
Our results provide information on the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying cognitive alterations in cirrhotic patients and demonstrate the feasibility of using Rs-fMRI with ReHo analysis as a noninvasive modality with which to detect the progression of cognitive changes in cirrhotic patients.