Background: Cranial radiotherapy (CRT) is an important part of brain tumor treatment, and although highly effective, survivors suffer from long-term cognitive side effects. In this study we aim to establish late-term imaging markers of CRT-induced brain injury and identify functional markers indicative of cognitive performance. Specifically, we aim to identify changes in executive function, brain metabolism, and neuronal organization. Methods: Male Sprague Dawley rats were fractionally irradiated at 28 days of age to a total dose of 30 Gy to establish a radiation-induced brain injury model. Animals were trained at 3 months after CRT using the 5-choice serial reaction time task. At 12 months after CRT, animals were evaluated for cognitive and imaging changes, which included positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Results: Cognitive deficit with signs of neuroinflammation were found at 12 months after CRT in irradiated animals. CRT resulted in significant volumetric changes in 38% of brain regions as well as overall decrease in brain volume and reduced gray matter volume. PET imaging showed higher brain glucose uptake in CRT animals. Using MRI, irradiated brains had an overall decrease in fractional anisotropy, lower global efficiency, increased transitivity, and altered regional connectivity. Cognitive measurements were found to be significantly correlated with six image features that included myelin integrity and local organization of the neural network. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that CRT leads to late-term morphological changes, reorganization of neural connections, and metabolic dysfunction. The correlation between imaging markers and cognitive deficits can be used to assess late-term side effects of brain tumor treatment and evaluate efficacy of new interventions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology