How DTI Is Aiding Studies of Concussions, Chronic Fatigue and Autism

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) exams are receiving more and more attention in the public and medical field because of the light they have shed on certain neurological and mental conditions. DTI is an advanced form of MRI technology that is able to closely follow the flow of water throughout the brain’s pathways giving doctors a better understanding of brain injuries and connectivity.


DTI is used for determining the extent of brain damage from causes such as concussions. Concussions can happen during car accidents and other serious head injuries.

MRIs vs DTI for Concussions

Unlike conventional MRIs that use magnetic fields and computer technology to excite and then map the hydrogen atoms of the body, DTI machinery tracks the pathway of water throughout the brain. Because water in the brain only goes in one direction, it is easier to track this motion and thus map the different nerve paths of the brain as they are very complex and convoluted.

Once the nerve pathways are clearly mapped, neurologists can see if there is damage, bleeds or symptoms of other neurological or mental conditions.

Thanks to DTI, concussions are now being more thoroughly imaged. Before the advanced technology of DTI, concussions could be examined through conventional MRIs but small bleeds and nerve damage were always difficult to identify — especially in the white matter areas of the brain. Now, doctors can track the nerve pathways in the brain with high clarity and understand the genetic and biological causes of some medical conditions.

DTI and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Recently, DTI has been used to identify brain abnormalities that lead to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Feeling fatigued is not an unusual symptom to have, but for some people, fatigue cannot be fought with adequate sleep or stress-relieving activities. Thanks to imaging techniques, the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome have finally been identified.

In a 2014 study published online in the journal Radiology, researchers found that those complaining of CFS symptoms had “lower white matter volume” as well as high FA values (measurement of diffusion of water in the specific tract within the right hemisphere), suggesting that this is the area of the brain where “the more abnormal the tract, the worse the fatigue.”

DTI, Fragile X and Austism

In another 2014 study, DTI was instrumental in uncovering the area of the brain that possibly contributes to autism. Scientists determined that Fragile X syndrome is the leading cause of mental developmental issues and the most frequent cause of autism spectrum disorders. Their conclusion found that FMRP (fragile X mental retardation protein) is critical in brain development and that if the correct positioning of brain cells during the development of the cortex is not made, autistic traits can emerge as a child becomes older. Source: Scientists at VIB and KU Leuven (Belgium), in collaboration with Tor Vergata University (Italy) and VU University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

DTI Now Available at Doctors Imaging

These factors could not have been studied in such high detail without the help of DTI. This advanced imaging technology could help scientists find the causes and cures for more diseases and conditions in the years to come.
Doctors Imaging is the first facility in Louisiana to offer DTI exams. If you have more questions about the symptoms of concussion, loss of sensation after a head injury or how DTI works, please visit the dedicated website TheConcussionGroup.com.