While the hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is corticospinal tract in combination with lower motor neuron degeneration, the clinical involvement of both compartments is characteristically variable and the site of onset debated. We sought to establish whether there is a consistent signature of cerebral white matter abnormalities in heterogeneous ALS cases.
In this observational study, diffusion tensor imaging was applied in a whole-brain analysis of 24 heterogeneous patients with ALS and well-matched healthy controls. Tract-based spatial statistics were used, with optimized voxel-based morphometry of T1 images to determine any associated gray matter involvement.
A consistent reduction in fractional anisotropy was demonstrated in the corpus callosum of the ALS group, extending rostrally and bilaterally to the region of the primary motor cortices, independent of the degree of clinical upper motor neuron involvement. Matched regional radial diffusivity increase supported the concept of anterograde degeneration of callosal fibers observed pathologically. Gray matter reductions were observed bilaterally in primary motor and supplementary motor regions, and also in the anterior cingulate and temporal lobe regions. A post hoc group comparison model incorporating significant values for fractional anisotropy, radial diffusivity, and gray matter was 92% sensitive, 88% specific, with an accuracy of 90%.
Callosal involvement is a consistent feature of ALS, independent of clinical upper motor neuron involvement, and may reflect independent bilateral cortical involvement or interhemispheric spread of pathology. The predominantly rostral corticospinal tract involvement further supports the concept of independent cortical degeneration even in those patients with ALS with predominantly lower motor neuron involvement clinically.
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= revised Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale;
= corpus callosum;
= corticospinal tract;
= disease duration;
= diffusion tensor imaging;
= fractional anisotropy;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= gray matter;
= lower motor neuron;
= mean diffusivity;
= primary lateral sclerosis;
= progressive muscular atrophy;
= radial diffusivity;
= upper motor neuron;
= white matter.
Magnetic resonance imaging measures have been proposed as objective markers to study upper motor neuron loss in motor neuron disorders. Cross-sectional studies have identified imaging differences between groups of healthy controls and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) that correlate with disease severity, but it is not known whether imaging measures change as disease progresses. Additionally, whether imaging measures change in a similar fashion with disease progression in PLS and ALS is unclear. To address these questions, clinical and imaging evaluations were first carried out in a prospective cross-sectional study of 23 ALS and 22 PLS patients with similar motor impairment and 19 age-matched healthy controls. Clinical evaluations consisted of a neurological examination, the ALS Functional rating scale-revised, and measures of finger tapping, gait, and timed speech. Age and ALSFRS score were not different, but PLS patients had longer duration of symptoms. Imaging measures examined were cortical thickness, regional brain volumes, and diffusion tensor imaging of the corticospinal tract and callosum. Imaging measures that differed from controls in a cross-sectional vertex-wise analysis were used as regions of interest for longitudinal analysis, which was carried out in 9 of the ALS patients (interval 1.26 ± 0.72 years) and 12 PLS patients (interval 2.08 ± 0.93 years). In the cross-sectional study both groups had areas of cortical thinning, which was more extensive in motor regions in PLS patients. At follow-up, clinical measures declined more in ALS than PLS patients. Cortical thinning and grey matter volume loss of the precentral gyri progressed over the follow-up interval. Fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tracts remained stable, but the cross-sectional area declined in ALS patients. Changes in clinical measures correlated with changes in precentral cortical thickness and grey matter volume. The rate of cortical thinning was greater in ALS patients with shorter disease durations, suggesting that thickness decreases in a non-linear fashion. Thus, cortical thickness changes are a potential imaging marker for disease progression in individual patients, but the magnitude of change likely depends on disease duration and progression rate. Differences between PLS and ALS patients in the magnitude of thinning in cross-sectional studies are likely to reflect longer disease duration. We conclude that there is an evolution of structural imaging changes with disease progression in motor neuron disorders. Some changes, such as diffusion properties of the corticospinal tract, occur early while cortical thinning and volume loss occur later.
► In a cross-sectional study, ALS and PLS patients had thinning of the motor cortex compared to age-matched controls ► Progressive thinning and atrophy of the precentral gyrus were correlated with clinical progression over a 1- or 2-year longitudinal follow-up ► The rate of cortical thinning was faster in ALS patients with a shorter disease duration ► Fractional anisotropy of corticospinal tracts, though reduced at baseline in ALS and PLS patients remained stable over longitudinal follow-up ► Imaging changes evolve with disease progression in motor neuron disorders ► Changes in white matter diffusion properties occur early, while cortical thinning and atrophy occur later and over a longer time frame
ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALSFRS-R, ALS functional rating scale, revised; CC, corpus callosum; CST, corticospinal tract; DTI, diffusion tensor imaging; FA, fractional anisotropy; MD, mean diffusivity; MRI, magnetic resonance imaging; PLS, primary lateral sclerosis; UMN, upper motor neuron; Cortical thickness; Longitudinal studies; Motor neuron disease; Diffusion tensor imaging; FreeSurfer
Menke/Koerner et al. use structural MRI to explore the extent of longitudinal changes in cerebral pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and their relationship to clinical features. A characteristic white matter tract pathological signature is seen cross-sectionally, while cortical involvement dominates longitudinally. This has implications for the development of biomarkers for diagnosis versus therapeutic monitoring.
Diagnosis, stratification and monitoring of disease progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis currently rely on clinical history and examination. The phenotypic heterogeneity of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, including extramotor cognitive impairments is now well recognized. Candidate biomarkers have shown variable sensitivity and specificity, and studies have been mainly undertaken only cross-sectionally. Sixty patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (without a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or dementia) underwent baseline multimodal magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Grey matter pathology was identified through analysis of T1-weighted images using voxel-based morphometry. White matter pathology was assessed using tract-based spatial statistics analysis of indices derived from diffusion tensor imaging. Cross-sectional analyses included group comparison with a group of healthy controls (n = 36) and correlations with clinical features, including regional disability, clinical upper motor neuron signs and cognitive impairment. Patients were offered 6-monthly follow-up MRI, and the last available scan was used for a separate longitudinal analysis (n = 27). In cross-sectional study, the core signature of white matter pathology was confirmed within the corticospinal tract and callosal body, and linked strongly to clinical upper motor neuron burden, but also to limb disability subscore and progression rate. Localized grey matter abnormalities were detected in a topographically appropriate region of the left motor cortex in relation to bulbar disability, and in Broca’s area and its homologue in relation to verbal fluency. Longitudinal analysis revealed progressive and widespread changes in the grey matter, notably including the basal ganglia. In contrast there was limited white matter pathology progression, in keeping with a previously unrecognized limited change in individual clinical upper motor neuron scores, despite advancing disability. Although a consistent core white matter pathology was found cross-sectionally, grey matter pathology was dominant longitudinally, and included progression in clinically silent areas such as the basal ganglia, believed to reflect their wider cortical connectivity. Such changes were significant across a range of apparently sporadic patients rather than being a genotype-specific effect. It is also suggested that the upper motor neuron lesion in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be relatively constant during the established symptomatic period. These findings have implications for the development of effective diagnostic versus therapeutic monitoring magnetic resonance imaging biomarkers. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be characterized initially by a predominantly white matter tract pathological signature, evolving as a widespread cortical network degeneration.
motor neuron disease; biomarker; magnetic resonance imaging; voxel-based morphometry; diffusion tensor imaging
The homogeneous genotype and stereotyped phenotype of a unique familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (patients homozygous for aspartate-to-alanine mutations in codon 90 (homD90A) superoxide dismutase 1) provides an ideal model for studying genotype/phenotype interactions and pathological features compared with heterogeneous apparently sporadic ALS. The authors aimed to use diffusion tensor tractography to quantify and compare changes in the intracerebral corticospinal tracts of patients with both forms of ALS, building on previous work using whole-brain voxelwise group analysis.
21 sporadic ALS patients, seven homD90A patients and 20 healthy controls underwent 1.5 T diffusion tensor MRI. Patients were assessed using ‘upper motor neuron burden,’ El Escorial and ALSFR-R scales. The intracranial corticospinal tract was assessed using diffusion tensor tractography measures of fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity, and radial and axial diffusivity obtained from its entire length.
Corticospinal tract FA was reduced in sporadic ALS patients compared with both homD90A ALS patients and controls. The diffusion measures in sporadic ALS patients were consistent with anterograde (Wallerian) degeneration of the corticospinal tracts. In sporadic ALS, corticospinal tract FA was related to clinical measures. Despite a similar degree of clinical upper motor neuron dysfunction and disability in homD90A ALS patients compared with sporadic ALS, there were no abnormalities in corticospinal tract diffusion measures compared with controls.
Diffusion tensor tractography has shown axonal degeneration within the intracerebral portion of the corticospinal tract in sporadic ALS patients, but not those with a homogeneous form of familial ALS. This suggests significant genotypic influences on the phenotype of ALS and may provide clues to slower progression of disease in homD90A patients.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; diffusion tensor tractography; corticospinal tract; fractional anisotropy; mean diffusivityALSimage analysisMRI
Evaluating the integrity of white matter tracts with diffusion tensor imaging may differentiate primary lateral sclerosis from progressive supranuclear palsy.
Thirty-three prospectively recruited subjects had standardized evaluations and diffusion tensor imaging: 3 with primary lateral sclerosis who presented with features suggestive of progressive supranuclear palsy, 10 with probable or definite progressive supranuclear palsy, and 20 matched controls. We compared fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tract, superior cerebellar peduncle and body of the corpus callosum between groups.
Both the primary lateral sclerosis and progressive supranuclear palsy subjects showed reduced fractional anisotropy in superior cerebellar peduncles and body of the corpus callosum compared to controls, but only primary lateral sclerosis subjects showed reductions in the corticospinal tracts. A ratio of corticospinal tract/superior cerebellar peduncle best distinguished the disorders (p<0.02).
The corticospinal tract/superior cerebellar peduncle ratio is a marker to differentiate primary lateral sclerosis from progressive supranuclear palsy.
Progressive supranuclear palsy; primary lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; diffusion tensor imaging
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, caused by progressive loss of motor neurons. Changes are widespread in the subcortical white matter in ALS. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) detects pathological changes in white matter fibres in vivo, based on alterations in the degree (diffusivity, ADC) and directedness (fractional anisotropy, FA) of proton movement.
24 patients with ALS and 24 age-matched controls received 1.5T DTI. FA and ADC were analyzed using statistical parametric mapping. In 15 of the 24 ALS patients, a second DTI was obtained after 6 months.
Decreased FA in the corticospinal tract (CST) and frontal areas confirm existing results. With a direct comparison of baseline and follow-up dataset, the progression of upper motor neuron degeneration, reflected in FA decrease, could be captured along the CST and in frontal areas. The involvement of cerebellum in the pathology of ALS, as suspected from functional MRI studies, could be confirmed by a reduced FA (culmen, declive). These structural changes correlated well with disease duration, ALSFRS-R, and physical and executive functions.
DTI detects changes that are regarded as prominent features of ALS and thus, shows promise in its function as a biomarker. Using the technique herein, we could demonstrate DTI changes at follow-up which correlated well with clinical progression.
Cerebellum; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Diffusion tensor imaging; Follow-up
The objective was to test three motor system-specific hypotheses in multiple sclerosis patients: (i) corticospinal tract and primary motor cortex imaging measures differ between multiple sclerosis patients and controls; (ii) in patients, these measures correlate with disability; (iii) in patients, corticospinal tract measures correlate with measures of the ipsilateral primary motor cortex.
Eleven multiple sclerosis patients with a history of hemiparesis attributable to a lesion within the contralateral corticospinal tract, and 12 controls were studied. We used two advanced imaging techniques: (i) diffusion-based probabilistic tractography, to obtain connectivity and fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal tract; and (ii) FreeSurfer, to measure volume, thickness, surface area, and curvature of precentral and paracentral cortices. Differences in these measures between patients and controls, and relationships between each other and to clinical scores, were investigated.
Patients showed lower corticospinal tract fractional anisotropy and smaller volume and surface area of the precentral gyrus than controls. In patients, corticospinal tract connectivity and paracentral cortical volume, surface area, and curvature were lower with increasing disability; lower connectivity of the affected corticospinal tract was associated with greater surface area of the ipsilateral paracentral cortex.
Corticospinal tract connectivity and new measures of the primary motor cortex, such as surface area and curvature, reflect the underlying white and grey matter damage that contributes to disability. The correlation between lower connectivity of the affected corticospinal tract and greater surface area of the ipsilateral paracentral cortex suggests the possibility of cortical adaptation. Combining tractography and cortical measures is a useful approach in testing hypotheses which are specific to clinically relevant functional systems in multiple sclerosis, and can be applied to other neurological diseases.
atrophy; MRI; relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease with severe cervical cord damage due to degeneration of the corticospinal tracts and loss of lower motor neurones. Diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT MRI) allows the measurement of quantities reflecting the size (such as mean diffusivity) and orientation (such as fractional anisotropy) of water‐filled spaces in biological tissues.
Mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy histograms from the cervical cord of patients with ALS were obtained to: (1) quantify the extent of tissue damage in this critical central nervous system region; and (2) investigate the magnitude of the correlation of cervical cord DT MRI metrics with patients' disability and tissue damage along the brain portion of the corticospinal tracts. Cervical cord and brain DT MRI scans were obtained from 28 patients with ALS and 20 age‐matched and sex‐matched controls. Cord mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy histograms were produced and the cord cross‐sectional area was measured. Average mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy along the brain portion of the corticospinal tracts were also measured.
Compared with controls, patients with ALS had significantly lower mean fractional anisotropy (p = 0.002) and cord cross‐sectional area (p<0.001). Mean diffusivity histogram‐derived metrics did not differ between the two groups. A strong correlation was found between mean cord fractional anisotropy and the ALS Functional Rating Score (r = 0.74, p<0.001). Mean cord and brain fractional anisotropy values correlated moderately (r = 0.37, p = 0.05).
Cervical cord DT MRI in patients with ALS allows the extent of cord damage to be graded. The conventional and DT MRI changes found are compatible with the presence of neuroaxonal loss and reactive gliosis, with a heterogeneous distribution of the pathological process between the brain and the cord. The correlation found between cord fractional anisotropy and disability suggests that DT MRI may be a useful adjunctive tool to monitor the evolution of ALS.
The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that magnetization transfer ratios (MTR) are decreased in the corticospinal tract of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); to determine if T2 is increased in corticospinal tract or reduced in motor cortex in ALS; to determine if corticospinal tract MTR correlates with a clinical measure of motor neuron function in ALS. Ten ALS patients and 17 age-matched controls were studied. Double spin echo MRI and 3D gradient echo MRI with and without off-resonance saturation were acquired on each subject. 3D data sets were coregistered and resliced to match the spin echo data set. MTR was calculated for corticospinal and non-corticospinal tract white matter. T2 was calculated for corticospinal and non-corticospinal tract white matter, motor cortex and non-motor cortex. MTR was reduced by 2.6% (p < .02) in corticospinal, but not in non-corticospinal, tract white matter in ALS. There was no difference in T2 in any brain region. The correlation between a clinical measure of motor neuron function and corticospinal tract MTR was statistically significant. These findings are consistent with the known pathology in ALS and suggest that MTR is more sensitive than T2 for detecting involvement of the corticospinal tract. Quantitative MTR of the corticospinal tract may be a useful, objective marker of upper motor neuron pathology in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Magnetization transfer ratio; T2 relaxation; Corticospinal tract; Motor cortex
Quantitative tractography may provide insights into regional heterogeneity of changes in white matter structure in normal ageing. Here we examine how brain atrophy and white matter lesions affect correlations between tract shape, tract integrity and age in a range of frontal and non-frontal tracts in 90 non-demented subjects aged over 65 years using an enhanced version of probabilistic neighbourhood tractography. This novel method for automatic single seed point placement employs unsupervised learning and streamline selection to provide reliable and accurate tract segmentation, whilst also indicating how the shape of an individual tract compares to that of a predefined reference tract. There were significant negative correlations between tract shape similarity to reference tracts derived from a young brain white matter atlas and age in genu and splenium of corpus callosum. Controlling for intracranial and lateral ventricle volume, the latter of which increased significantly with age, attenuated these correlations by 40 and 84 % respectively, indicating that this age-related change in callosal tract topology is significantly mediated by global atrophy and ventricular enlargement. In accordance with the ‘frontal ageing’ hypothesis, there was a significant positive correlation between mean diffusivity (〈D〉) and age, and a significant negative correlation between fractional anisotropy (FA) and age in corpus callosum genu; correlations not seen in splenium. Significant positive correlations were also observed between 〈D〉 and age in bilateral cingulum cingulate gyri, uncinate fasciculi and right corticospinal tract. This pattern of correlations was not, however, reproduced when those subjects with significant white matter lesion load were analyzed separately from those without. These data therefore suggest that brain atrophy and white matter lesions play a significant role in driving regional patterns of age-related changes in white matter tract shape and integrity.
Ageing; white matter; magnetic resonance imaging; water diffusion tensor; tractography
The progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) through the brain has recently been staged using independent neuropathological and neuroimaging modalities. The two schemes tie into the concept of pathological spread through corticofugal axonal transmission that stems from observation of oligodendrocyte pTDP-43 aggregates along with neuronal inclusions. Here, we aimed to assess evidence of transmission along axonal pathways by looking for pTDP-43 oligodendrocyte pathology in involved white matter tracts, and to present a first validation of the neuropathological staging scheme.
pTDP-43 immunohistochemistry was performed in select white matter tracts and grey matter regions from the staging scheme in postmortem-confirmed ALS cases (N = 34). Double-labelling immunofluorescence was performed to confirm co-localisation of pTDP-43 immunoreactivity to oligodendrocytes.
While pTDP-43 immunoreactive oligodendrocytes were frequent in the white matter under the motor and sensory cortices, similar assessment of the white matter along the corticospinal tract and in the corpus callosum and cingulum bundle of the same cases revealed no pTDP-43 pathology, questioning the involvement of oligodendrocytes in pathological propagation. The assessment of Betz cell loss revealed that the lack of deep white matter pTDP-43 oligodendrocyte pathology was not due to an absence of motor axons. Assessment of the propagation of pathology to different grey matter regions validated that all cases could be allocated to one of four neuropathological stages, although Stage 4 cases were found to differ significantly in age of onset (~10 years older) and disease duration (shorter duration than Stage 3 and similar to Stage 2).
Four stages of ALS neuropathology can be consistently identified, although evidence of sequential clinical progression requires further assessment. As limited pTDP-43 oligodendrocyte pathology in deep corticospinal and other white matter tracts from the motor cortex was observed, the propagation of pathology between neurons may not involve oligodendrocytes and the interpretation of the changes observed on neuroimaging should be modified accordingly.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-015-0226-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Disease staging; Oligodendrocyte inclusions; pTDP-43
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons. Advanced MRI techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging have shown great potential in capturing a common white matter pathology. However the sensitivity is variable and diffusion tensor imaging is not yet applicable to the routine clinical environment. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) has revealed grey matter changes in ALS, but the bias-reducing algorithms inherent to traditional VBM are not optimized for the assessment of the white matter changes. We have developed a novel approach to white matter analysis, namely voxel-based intensitometry (VBI). High resolution T1-weighted MRI was acquired at 1.5 Tesla in 30 ALS patients and 37 age-matched healthy controls. VBI analysis at the group level revealed widespread white matter intensity increases in the corticospinal tracts, corpus callosum, sub-central, frontal and occipital white matter tracts and cerebellum. VBI results correlated with disease severity (ALSFRS-R) and patterns of cerebral involvement differed between bulbar- and limb-onset. VBI would be easily translatable to the routine clinical environment, and once optimized for individual analysis offers significant biomarker potential in ALS.
A relevant fraction of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) exhibit a fronto-temporal pattern of cognitive and behavioural disturbances with pronounced deficits in executive functioning and cognitive control of behaviour. Structural imaging shows a decline in fronto-temporal brain areas, but most brain imaging studies did not evaluate cognitive status. We investigated microstructural white matter changes underlying cognitive impairment using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a large cohort of ALS patients.
We assessed 72 non-demented ALS patients and 65 matched healthy control subjects using a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and DTI. We compared DTI measures of fiber tract integrity using tract-based spatial statistics among ALS patients with and without cognitive impairment and healthy controls. Neuropsychological performance and behavioural measures were correlated with DTI measures.
Patients without cognitive impairment demonstrated white matter changes predominantly in motor tracts, including the corticospinal tract and the body of corpus callosum. Those with impairments (ca. 30%) additionally presented significant white matter alterations in extra-motor regions, particularly the frontal lobe. Executive and memory performance and behavioural measures were correlated with fiber tract integrity in large association tracts.
In non-demented cognitively impaired ALS patients, white matter changes measured by DTI are related to disturbances of executive and memory functions, including prefrontal and temporal regions. In a group comparison, DTI is able to observe differences between cognitively unimpaired and impaired ALS patients.
Executive dysfunction occurs in many patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but it has not been well studied in primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). The aims of this study were to (1) compare cognitive function in PLS to that in ALS patients, (2) explore the relationship between performance on specific cognitive tests and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics of white matter tracts and gray matter volumes, and (3) compare DTI metrics in patients with and without cognitive and behavioral changes.
The Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale (DRS-2), and other behavior and mood scales were administered to 25 ALS patients and 25 PLS patients. Seventeen of the PLS patients, 13 of the ALS patients, and 17 healthy controls underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and DTI. Atlas-based analysis using MRI Studio software was used to measure fractional anisotropy, and axial and radial diffusivity of selected white matter tracts. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess gray matter volumes. The relationship between diffusion properties of selected association and commissural white matter and performance on executive function and memory tests was explored using a linear regression model.
More ALS than PLS patients had abnormal scores on the DRS-2. DRS-2 and D-KEFS scores were related to DTI metrics in several long association tracts and the callosum. Reduced gray matter volumes in motor and perirolandic areas were not associated with cognitive scores.
The changes in diffusion metrics of white matter long association tracts suggest that the loss of integrity of the networks connecting fronto-temporal areas to parietal and occipital areas contributes to cognitive impairment.
Motor neuron disease; Executive function; Diffusion tensor imaging
Four subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions have been described (types A–D). Of these four subtypes, motor neuron disease is more commonly associated with type B pathology, but has also been reported with type A pathology. We have noted, however, the unusual occurrence of cases of type C pathology having corticospinal tract degeneration. We aimed to assess the severity of corticospinal tract degeneration in a large cohort of cases with type C (n = 31). Pathological analysis included semi-quantitation of myelin loss of fibres of the corticospinal tract and associated macrophage burden, as well as axonal loss, at the level of the medullary pyramids. We also assessed for motor cortex degeneration and fibre loss of the medial lemniscus/olivocerebellar tract. All cases were subdivided into three groups based on the degree of corticospinal tract degeneration: (i) no corticospinal tract degeneration; (ii) equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration; and (iii) moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration. Clinical, genetic, pathological and imaging comparisons were performed across groups. Eight cases had no corticospinal tract degeneration, and 14 cases had equivocal to mild corticospinal tract degeneration. Nine cases, however, had moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration with myelin and axonal loss. In these nine cases, there was degeneration of the motor cortex without lower motor neuron degeneration or involvement of other brainstem tracts. These cases most commonly presented as semantic dementia, and they had longer disease duration (mean: 15.3 years) compared with the other two groups (10.8 and 9.9 years; P = 0.03). After adjusting for disease duration, severity of corticospinal tract degeneration remained significantly different across groups. Only one case, without corticospinal tract degeneration, was found to have a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. All three groups were associated with anterior temporal lobe atrophy on MRI; however, the cases with moderate to severe corticospinal tract degeneration showed right-sided temporal lobe asymmetry and greater involvement of the right temporal lobe and superior motor cortices than the other groups. In contrast, the cases with no or equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration were more likely to show left-sided temporal lobe asymmetry. For comparison, the corticospinal tract was assessed in 86 type A and B cases, and only two cases showed evidence of corticospinal tract degeneration without lower motor neuron degeneration. These findings confirm that there exists a unique association between frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type C pathology and corticospinal tract degeneration, with this entity showing a predilection to involve the right temporal lobe.
TDP-43 type C; corticospinal tract; MRI; semantic dementia; right temporal lobe
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease characterised by motor neuron degeneration. How this disease affects the central motor network is largely unknown. Here, we combined for the first time structural and functional imaging measures on the motor network in patients with ALS and healthy controls.
Structural measures included whole brain cortical thickness and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of crucial motor tracts. These structural measures were combined with functional connectivity analysis of the motor network based on resting state fMRI. Focal cortical thinning was observed in the primary motor area in patients with ALS compared to controls and was found to correlate with disease progression. DTI revealed reduced FA values in the corpus callosum and in the rostral part of the corticospinal tract. Overall functional organisation of the motor network was unchanged in patients with ALS compared to healthy controls, however the level of functional connectedness was significantly correlated with disease progression rate. Patients with increased connectedness appear to have a more progressive disease course.
We demonstrate structural motor network deterioration in ALS with preserved functional connectivity measures. The positive correlation between functional connectedness of the motor network and disease progression rate could suggest spread of disease along functional connections of the motor network.
The aim of this study was to investigate the extent of cortical and subcortical lesions in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using, in combination, voxel based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and voxel based morphometry (VBM). We included 15 patients with definite or probable ALS and 25 healthy volunteers. Patients were assessed using the revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS‐R). In patients, reduced fractional anisotropy was found in bilateral corticospinal tracts, the left insula/ventrolateral premotor cortex, the right parietal cortex and the thalamus, which correlated with the ALSFRS‐R. Increased mean diffusivity (MD) was found bilaterally in the motor cortex, the ventrolateral premotor cortex/insula, the hippocampal formations and the right superior temporal gyrus, which did not correlate with the ALSFRS‐R. VBM analysis showed no changes in white matter but widespread volume decreases in grey matter in several regions exhibiting MD abnormalities. In ALS patients, our results show that subcortical lesions extend beyond the corticospinal tract and are clinically relevant.
In motor neuron disease, the focus of therapy is to prevent or slow neuronal degeneration with neuroprotective pharmacological agents; early diagnosis and treatment are thus essential. Incorporation of needle electromyographic evidence of lower motor neuron degeneration into diagnostic criteria has undoubtedly advanced diagnosis, but even earlier diagnosis might be possible by including tests of subclinical upper motor neuron disease. We hypothesized that beta-band (15–30 Hz) intermuscular coherence could be used as an electrophysiological marker of upper motor neuron integrity in such patients. We measured intermuscular coherence in eight patients who conformed to established diagnostic criteria for primary lateral sclerosis and six patients with progressive muscular atrophy, together with 16 age-matched controls. In the primary lateral sclerosis variant of motor neuron disease, there is selective destruction of motor cortical layer V pyramidal neurons and degeneration of the corticospinal tract, without involvement of anterior horn cells. In progressive muscular atrophy, there is selective degeneration of anterior horn cells but a normal corticospinal tract. All patients with primary lateral sclerosis had abnormal motor-evoked potentials as assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation, whereas these were similar to controls in progressive muscular atrophy. Upper and lower limb intermuscular coherence was measured during a precision grip and an ankle dorsiflexion task, respectively. Significant beta-band coherence was observed in all control subjects and all patients with progressive muscular atrophy tested, but not in the patients with primary lateral sclerosis. We conclude that intermuscular coherence in the 15–30 Hz range is dependent on an intact corticospinal tract but persists in the face of selective anterior horn cell destruction. Based on the distributions of coherence values measured from patients with primary lateral sclerosis and control subjects, we estimated the likelihood that a given measurement reflects corticospinal tract degeneration. Therefore, intermuscular coherence has potential as a quantitative test of subclinical upper motor neuron involvement in motor neuron disease.
corticospinal; intermuscular coherence; oscillations; motor neuron disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Several patterns of grey and white matter changes have been separately described in young adults with first-episode psychosis. Concomitant investigation of grey and white matter densities in patients with first-episode psychosis without other psychiatric comorbidities that include all relevant imaging markers could provide clues to the neurodevelopmental hypothesis in schizophrenia.
We recruited patients with first-episode psychosis diagnosed according to the DSM-IV-TR and matched controls. All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis and mean diffusivity voxel-based analysis (VBA) were used for grey matter data. Fractional anisotropy and axial, radial and mean diffusivity were analyzed using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) for white matter data.
We included 15 patients and 16 controls. The mean diffusivity VBA showed significantly greater mean diffusivity in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the lingual gyrus bilaterally, the occipital fusiform gyrus bilaterally, the right lateral occipital gyrus and the right inferior temporal gyrus. Moreover, the TBSS analysis revealed a lower fractional anisotropy in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the genu of the corpus callosum, minor forceps, corticospinal tract, right superior longitudinal fasciculus, left middle cerebellar peduncle, left inferior longitudinal fasciculus and the posterior part of the fronto-occipital fasciculus. This analysis also revealed greater radial diffusivity in the first-episode psychosis than in the control group in the right corticospinal tract, right superior longitudinal fasciculus and left middle cerebellar peduncle.
The modest sample size and the absence of women in our series could limit the impact of our results.
Our results highlight the structural vulnerability of grey matter in posterior areas of the brain among young adult male patients with first-episode psychosis. Moreover, the concomitant greater radial diffusivity within several regions already revealed by the fractional anisotropy analysis supports the idea of a late myelination in patients with first-episode psychosis.
This is a cross-sectional study aimed at investigating cognitive performances in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and using diffusion tensor (DT) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the topographical distribution of microstructural white matter (WM) damage in patients with or without cognitive deficits.
DT MRI scans were obtained from 21 PLS patients and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. All PLS patients underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Tract-based-spatial-statistics (TBSS) was used to perform a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial, radial (radD) and mean diffusivity (MD).
Ten PLS patients had abnormal scores in at least one neuropsychological test (PLS with cognitive deficits, PLS-cd). Compared with healthy controls and cognitively unimpaired PLS patients (PLS-cu), PLS-cd cases showed decreased FA and increased MD and radD in the corticospinal tract (CST), corpus callosum, brainstem, anterior limb of internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, fornix, thalamic radiations, and parietal lobes, bilaterally. Compared with healthy controls, PLS-cd patients showed further decreased FA and increased radD in the cerebellar WM, bilaterally. Compared with controls, PLS-cu patients showed decreased FA in the mid-body of corpus callosum. In PLS, executive and language test scores correlated with WM damage.
This is the first study evaluating the relationship between cognitive performance and WM tract damage in PLS patients. PLS can be associated with a multi-domain cognitive impairment. WM damage to interhemispheric, limbic and major associative WM tracts seem to be the structural correlate of cognitive abnormalities in these patients.
There is increasing evidence that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) lie on a clinical, pathological and genetic continuum with patients of one disease exhibiting features of the other. Nevertheless, to date, the underlying grey matter and white matter changes across the ALS-FTD disease continuum have not been explored. In this study fifty-three participants with ALS (n = 10), ALS-FTD (n = 10) and behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD; n = 15) as well as controls (n = 18), underwent detailed clinical assessment plus structural imaging using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) analysis of magnetic resonance brain imaging to examine grey and white matter differences and commonalities across the continuum. Importantly, patient groups were matched for age, education, gender and disease duration. VBM and DTI results showed that changes in the ALS group were confined mainly to the motor cortex and anterior cingulate as well as their underlying white matter tracts. ALS-FTD and bvFTD showed widespread grey matter and white matter changes involving frontal and temporal lobes. Extensive prefrontal cortex changes emerged as a marker for bvFTD compared to other subtypes, while ALS-FTD could be distinguished from ALS by additional temporal lobe grey and white matter changes. Finally, ALS could be mainly distinguished from the other two groups by corticospinal tract degeneration. The present study shows for the first time that FTD and ALS overlap in anterior cingulate, motor cortex and related white matter tract changes across the whole continuum. Nevertheless, frontal and temporal atrophy as well as corticospinal tract degeneration emerged as marker for subtype classification, which will inform future diagnosis and target disease management across the continuum.
To investigate transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) measures as clinical correlates and longitudinal markers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
We prospectively studied 60 patients with ALS subtypes (sporadic ALS, familial ALS, progressive muscular atrophy, and primary lateral sclerosis) using single pulse TMS, recording from abductor digiti minimi (ADM) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscles. We evaluated three measures: 1) TMS motor response threshold to the ADM, 2) central motor conduction time (CMCT), and 3) motor evoked potential amplitude (correcting for peripheral changes). Patients were evaluated at baseline, compared with controls, and followed every 3 months for up to six visits. Changes were analyzed using generalized estimation equations to test linear trends with time.
TMS threshold, CMCT, and TMS amplitude correlated (p < 0.05) with clinical upper motor neuron (UMN) signs at baseline and were different (p < 0.05) from normal controls in at least one response. Seventy-eight percent of patients with UMN (41/52) and 50% (4/8) of patients without clinical UMN signs had prolonged CMCT. All three measures revealed significant deterioration over time: TMS amplitude showed the greatest change, decreasing 8% per month; threshold increased 1.8% per month; and CMCT increased by 0.9% per month.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) findings, particularly TMS amplitude, can objectively discriminate corticospinal tract involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from controls and assess the progression of ALS. While central motor conduction time and response threshold worsen by less than 2% per month, TMS amplitude decrease averages 8% per month, and may be a useful objective marker of disease progression.
= abductor digiti minimi;
= amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
= analysis of variance;
= confidence interval;
= compound motor action potential;
= central motor conduction time;
= deep tendon stretch reflex;
= familial ALS;
= generalized estimation equations;
= lower motor neuron;
= motor evoked potential;
= primary lateral sclerosis;
= progressive muscular atrophy;
= sporadic ALS;
= tibialis anterior;
= transcranial magnetic stimulation;
= upper motor neuron.
Myotonic dystrophy types 1 and 2 are progressive multisystemic disorders with potential brain involvement. We compared 22 myotonic dystrophy type 1 and 22 myotonic dystrophy type 2 clinically and neuropsychologically well-characterized patients and a corresponding healthy control group using structural brain magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T (T1/T2/diffusion-weighted). Voxel-based morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging with tract-based spatial statistics were applied for voxel-wise analysis of cerebral grey and white matter affection (Pcorrected < 0.05). We further examined the association of structural brain changes with clinical and neuropsychological data. White matter lesions rated visually were more prevalent and severe in myotonic dystrophy type 1 compared with controls, with frontal white matter most prominently affected in both disorders, and temporal lesions restricted to myotonic dystrophy type 1. Voxel-based morphometry analyses demonstrated extensive white matter involvement in all cerebral lobes, brainstem and corpus callosum in myotonic dystrophy types 1 and 2, while grey matter decrease (cortical areas, thalamus, putamen) was restricted to myotonic dystrophy type 1. Accordingly, we found more prominent white matter affection in myotonic dystrophy type 1 than myotonic dystrophy type 2 by diffusion tensor imaging. Association fibres throughout the whole brain, limbic system fibre tracts, the callosal body and projection fibres (e.g. internal/external capsules) were affected in myotonic dystrophy types 1 and 2. Central motor pathways were exclusively impaired in myotonic dystrophy type 1. We found mild executive and attentional deficits in our patients when neuropsychological tests were corrected for manual motor dysfunctioning. Regression analyses revealed associations of white matter affection with several clinical parameters in both disease entities, but not with neuropsychological performance. We showed that depressed mood and fatigue were more prominent in patients with myotonic dystrophy type 1 with less white matter affection (early disease stages), contrary to patients with myotonic dystrophy type 2. Thus, depression in myotonic dystrophies might be a reactive adjustment disorder rather than a direct consequence of structural brain damage. Associations of white matter affection with age/disease duration as well as patterns of cerebral water diffusion parameters pointed towards an ongoing process of myelin destruction and/or axonal loss in our cross-sectional study design. Our data suggest that both myotonic dystrophy types 1 and 2 are serious white matter diseases with prominent callosal body and limbic system affection. White matter changes dominated the extent of grey matter changes, which might argue against Wallerian degeneration as the major cause of white matter affection in myotonic dystrophies.
myotonic dystrophy; neuropsychology; MRI; DTI; VBM
Neurodegenerative process in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been proven to involve several cortical and subcortical brain regions within and beyond motor areas. However, how ALS pathology spreads progressively during disease evolution is still unknown. In this cross-sectional study we investigated 54 ALS patients, divided into 3 subsets according to the clinical stage, and 18 age and sex-matched healthy controls, by using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analyses. We aimed to identify white (WM) and gray matter (GM) patterns of disease distinctive of each clinical stage, corresponding to specific clinical milestones. ALS cases in stage 2A (i.e., at diagnosis) were characterized by GM and WM impairment of left motor and premotor cortices and brainstem at ponto-mesenchephalic junction. ALS patients in clinical stage 2B (with impairment of two functional regions) exhibited decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) (p<0.001, uncorrected) and increased mean (MD) and radial diffusivity (RD) (p<0.001, uncorrected) in the left cerebellar hemisphere and brainstem precerebellar nuclei, as well as in motor areas, while GM atrophy (p<0.001, uncorrected) was detected only in the left inferior frontal gyrus and right cuneus. Finally, ALS patients in stage 3 (with impairment of three functional regions) exhibited decreased FA and increased MD and RD (p<0.05, corrected) within WM underneath bilateral pre and postcentral gyri, corpus callosum midbody, long associative tracts and midbrain, while no significant clusters of GM atrophy were observed. Our findings reinforce the hypothesis that the neurodegenerative process propagates along the axonal pathways and develops beyond motor areas from early stages, involving progressively several frontotemporal regions and their afferents and efferents, while the detection of GM atrophy in earlier stages and its disappearance in later stages may be the result of reactive gliosis.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients with predominant upper motor neuron (UMN) signs occasionally have hyperintensity of corticospinal tract (CST) on T2- and proton-density-(PD-) weighted brain images. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to assess whether diffusion parameters along intracranial CST differ in presence or absence of hyperintensity and correspond to UMN dysfunction.
DTI brain scans were acquired in 47 UMN-predominant ALS patients with (n = 21) or without (n = 26) CST hyperintensity and in 10 control subjects. Fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) were measured in four regions of interests (ROIs) along CST. Abnormalities (P < 0.05) were observed in FA, AD, or RD in CST primarily at internal capsule (IC) level in ALS patients, especially those with CST hyperintensity. Clinical measures corresponded well with DTI changes at IC level. The IC abnormalities suggest a prominent axonopathy in UMN-predominant ALS and that tissue changes underlying CST hyperintensity have specific DTI changes, suggestive of unique axonal pathology.