The value of magnetic resonance imaging as a biomarker for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A systematic review

G. Grolez, C. Moreau, V. Danel-Brunaud, C. Delmaire, R. Lopes, P. F. Pradat, M. M. El Mendili, L. Defebvre, D. Devos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal, rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that mainly affects the motor system. A number of potentially neuroprotective and neurorestorative disease-modifying drugs are currently in clinical development. At present, the evaluation of a drug's clinical efficacy in ALS is based on the ALS Functional Rating Scale Revised, motor tests and survival. However, these endpoints are general, variable and late-stage measures of the ALS disease process and thus require the long-term assessment of large cohorts. Hence, there is a need for more sensitive radiological biomarkers. Various sequences for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord have may have value as surrogate biomarkers for use in future clinical trials. Here, we review the MRI findings in ALS, their clinical correlations, and their limitations and potential role as biomarkers. Methods: The PubMed database was screened to identify studies using MRI in ALS. We included general MRI studies with a control group and an ALS group and longitudinal studies even if a control group was lacking. Results: A total of 116 studies were analysed with MRI data and clinical correlations. The most disease-sensitive MRI patterns are in motor regions but the brain is more broadly affected. Conclusion: Despite the existing MRI biomarkers, there is a need for large cohorts with long term MRI and clinical follow-up. MRI assessment could be improved by standardized MRI protocols with multicentre studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155
JournalBMC Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 27 Aug 2016


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Biomarkers
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Morphometry
  • Spinal cord


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