Magnetic resonance imaging sequences such as diffusion and spectroscopy have been well studied in X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, but no data exist on magnetic resonance perfusion imaging. Since inflammation is known to modulate the microcirculation, we investigated the hypothesis that changes in the local perfusion might be one of the earliest signs of lesion development. Twenty patients with different phenotypes of adrenoleukodystrophy and seven age-matched controls were evaluated between 2006 and 2011. Fluid attenuated inversion recovery, post-contrast T1-weighted and normalized dynamic susceptibility contrast magnetic resonance perfusion cerebral blood volume maps were co-registered, segmented when cerebral lesion was present, and normalized cerebral blood volume values were analysed using a Food and Drug Association approved magnetic resonance perfusion software (NordicICE). Clinical and imaging data were reviewed to determine phenotype and status of progression. All eight patients with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy had an average 80% decrease in normalized cerebral blood volume at the core of the lesion (P < 0.0001). Beyond the leading edge of contrast enhancement cerebral perfusion varied, patients with progressive lesions showed an average 60% decrease in normalized cerebral blood volume (adults P < 0.05; children P < 0.001), while one child with arrested progression normalized cerebral blood volume in this region. In six of seven patients with cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy lesions and follow-up imaging (2–24 month interval period), we found progression of contrast enhancement into the formerly hypoperfused perilesional zone. Asymptomatic, adrenomyeloneuropathy and female heterozygote patients had no significant changes in cerebral perfusion. Our data indicate that decreased brain magnetic resonance perfusion precedes leakage of the blood–brain barrier as demonstrated by contrast enhancement in cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and is an early sign of lesion progression.
MRI perfusion; demyelination; neuroinflammation; adrenoleukodystrophy; leukodystrophy
Gait disturbance is an early feature in Parkinson’s disease. Its pathophysiology is poorly understood; however, cholinergic dysfunction may be a non-dopaminergic contributor to gait. Short-latency afferent inhibition is a surrogate measure of cholinergic activity, allowing the contribution of cholinergic dysfunction to gait to be evaluated. We hypothesized that short-latency afferent inhibition would be an independent predictor of gait dysfunction in early Parkinson’s disease. Twenty-two participants with Parkinson’s disease and 22 age-matched control subjects took part in the study. Gait was measured objectively using an instrumented walkway (GAITRite), and subjects were asked to walk at their preferred speed for 2 min around a 25-m circuit. Spatiotemporal characteristics (speed, stride length, stride time and step width) and gait dynamics (variability described as the within subject standard deviation of: speed, stride time, stride length and step width) were determined. Short-latency afferent inhibition was measured by conditioning motor evoked potentials, elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex, with electrical stimuli delivered to the contralateral median nerve at intervals ranging from N20 (predetermined) to N20 + 4 ms. Short-latency afferent inhibition was determined as the percentage difference between test and conditioned response for all intervals and was described as the group mean. Participants were optimally medicated at the time of testing. Participants with Parkinson’s disease had significantly reduced gait speed (P = 0.002), stride length (P = 0.008) and stride time standard deviation (P = 0.001). Short-latency afferent inhibition was also significantly reduced in participants with Parkinson’s disease (P = 0.004). In participants with Parkinson’s disease, but not control subjects, significant associations were found between gait speed, short-latency afferent inhibition, age and postural instability and gait disorder score (Movement Disorders Society Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale) and attention, whereas global cognition and depression were marginally significant. No other gait variables were associated with short-latency afferent inhibition. A multiple hierarchical regression model explored the contribution of short-latency afferent inhibition to gait speed, controlling for age, posture and gait symptoms (Postural Instability and Gait Disorder score—Movement Disorders Society Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale), attention and depression. Regression analysis in participants with Parkinson’s disease showed that reduced short-latency afferent inhibition was an independent predictor of slower gait speed, explaining 37% of variability. The final model explained 72% of variability in gait speed with only short-latency afferent inhibition and attention emerging as independent determinants. The results suggest that cholinergic dysfunction may be an important and early contributor to gait dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. The findings also point to the contribution of non-motor mechanisms to gait dysfunction. Our study provides new insights into underlying mechanisms of non-dopaminergic gait dysfunction, and may help to direct future therapeutic approaches.
Parkinson’s disease; gait; short-latency afferent inhibition; cholinergic dysfunction; attention
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that is more prevalent in males than in females. A similar gender difference has been reported in some strains of transgenic mouse models of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis harbouring the G93A mutation in CuZn superoxide dismutase. Mitochondrial damage caused by pathological alterations in Ca2+ accumulation is frequently involved in neurodegenerative diseases, including CuZn superoxide dismutase-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, but its association with gender is not firmly established. In this study, we examined the effects of genetic ablation of cyclophilin D on gender differences in mice expressing G93A mutant CuZn superoxide dismutase. Cyclophilin D is a mitochondrial protein that promotes mitochondrial damage from accumulated Ca2+. As anticipated, we found that cyclophilin D ablation markedly increased Ca2+ retention in brain mitochondria of both males and females. Surprisingly, cyclophilin D ablation completely abolished the phenotypic advantage of G93A females, with no effect on disease in males. We also found that the 17β-oestradiol decreased Ca2+ retention in brain mitochondria, and that cyclophilin D ablation abolished this effect. Furthermore, 17β-oestradiol protected G93A cortical neurons and spinal cord motor neurons against glutamate toxicity, but the protection was lost in neurons lacking cyclophilin D. Taken together, these results identify a novel mechanism of oestrogen-mediated neuroprotection in CuZn superoxide dismutase-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, whereby Ca2+ overload and mitochondrial damage are prevented in a cyclophilin D-dependent manner. Such a protective mechanism may contribute to the lower incidence and later onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and perhaps other chronic neurodegenerative diseases, in females.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; calcium; cyclophilin D; oestrogen; mitochondria; SOD1; transgenic mice
Mucolipidosis II is a neurometabolic lysosomal trafficking disorder of infancy caused by loss of mannose 6-phosphate targeting signals on lysosomal proteins, leading to lysosomal dysfunction and accumulation of non-degraded material. However, the identity of storage material and mechanisms of neurodegeneration in mucolipidosis II are unknown. We have generated ‘knock-in’ mice with a common mucolipidosis II patient mutation that show growth retardation, progressive brain atrophy, skeletal abnormalities, elevated lysosomal enzyme activities in serum, lysosomal storage in fibroblasts and brain and premature death, closely mimicking the mucolipidosis II disease in humans. The examination of affected mouse brains at different ages by immunohistochemistry, ultrastructural analysis, immunoblotting and mass spectrometric analyses of glycans and anionic lipids revealed that the expression and proteolytic processing of distinct lysosomal proteins such as α-l-fucosidase, β-hexosaminidase, α-mannosidase or Niemann–Pick C2 protein are more significantly impacted by the loss of mannose 6-phosphate residues than enzymes reaching lysosomes independently of this targeting mechanism. As a consequence, fucosylated N-glycans, GM2 and GM3 gangliosides, cholesterol and bis(monoacylglycero)phosphate accumulate progressively in the brain of mucolipidosis II mice. Prominent astrogliosis and the accumulation of organelles and storage material in focally swollen axons were observed in the cerebellum and were accompanied by a loss of Purkinje cells. Moreover, an increased neuronal level of the microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 and the formation of p62-positive neuronal aggregates indicate an impairment of constitutive autophagy in the mucolipidosis II brain. Our findings demonstrate the essential role of mannose 6-phosphate for selected lysosomal proteins to maintain the capability for degradation of sequestered components in lysosomes and autophagolysosomes and prevent neurodegeneration. These lysosomal proteins might be a potential target for a valid therapeutic approach for mucolipidosis II disease.
mucolipidosis; lysosomal storage disease; trafficking of lysosomal proteins; ganglioside; impaired autophagy
Working memory is essential to higher order cognition (e.g. fluid intelligence) and to performance of daily activities. Though working memory capacity was traditionally thought to be inflexible, recent studies report that working memory capacity can be trained and that offline processes occurring during sleep may facilitate improvements in working memory performance. We utilized a 48-h in-laboratory protocol consisting of repeated digit span forward (short-term attention measure) and digit span backward (working memory measure) tests and overnight polysomnography to investigate the specific sleep-dependent processes that may facilitate working memory performance improvements in the synucleinopathies. We found that digit span backward performance improved following a nocturnal sleep interval in patients with Parkinson's disease on dopaminergic medication, but not in those not taking dopaminergic medication and not in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. Furthermore, the improvements in patients with Parkinson's disease on dopaminergic medication were positively correlated with the amount of slow-wave sleep that patients obtained between training sessions and negatively correlated with severity of nocturnal oxygen desaturation. The translational implication is that working memory capacity is potentially modifiable in patients with Parkinson's disease but that sleep disturbances may first need to be corrected.
consolidation; sleep; working memory; training; Parkinson's disease; dementia with Lewy bodies
In autism, heterogeneity is the rule rather than the exception. One obvious source of heterogeneity is biological sex. Since autism was first recognized, males with autism have disproportionately skewed research. Females with autism have thus been relatively overlooked, and have generally been assumed to have the same underlying neurobiology as males with autism. Growing evidence, however, suggests that this is an oversimplification that risks obscuring the biological base of autism. This study seeks to answer two questions about how autism is modulated by biological sex at the level of the brain: (i) is the neuroanatomy of autism different in males and females? and (ii) does the neuroanatomy of autism fit predictions from the ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism, in males and/or in females? Neuroanatomical features derived from voxel-based morphometry were compared in a sample of equal-sized high-functioning male and female adults with and without autism (n = 120, n = 30/group). The first question was investigated using a 2 × 2 factorial design, and by spatial overlap analyses of the neuroanatomy of autism in males and females. The second question was tested through spatial overlap analyses of specific patterns predicted by the extreme male brain theory. We found that the neuroanatomy of autism differed between adult males and females, evidenced by minimal spatial overlap (not different from that occurred under random condition) in both grey and white matter, and substantially large white matter regions showing significant sex × diagnosis interactions in the 2 × 2 factorial design. These suggest that autism manifests differently by biological sex. Furthermore, atypical brain areas in females with autism substantially and non-randomly (P < 0.001) overlapped with areas that were sexually dimorphic in neurotypical controls, in both grey and white matter, suggesting neural ‘masculinization’. This was not seen in males with autism. How differences in neuroanatomy relate to the similarities in cognition between males and females with autism remains to be understood. Future research should stratify by biological sex to reduce heterogeneity and to provide greater insight into the neurobiology of autism.
autism; brain; sex differences; volumetric MRI
Closure of the neural tube during embryogenesis is a crucial step in development of the central nervous system. Failure of this process results in neural tube defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly, which are among the most common birth defects worldwide. Maternal use of folic acid supplements reduces risk of neural tube defects but a proportion of cases are not preventable. Folic acid is thought to act through folate one-carbon metabolism, which transfers one-carbon units for methylation reactions and nucleotide biosynthesis. Hence suboptimal performance of the intervening reactions could limit the efficacy of folic acid. We hypothesized that direct supplementation with nucleotides, downstream of folate metabolism, has the potential to support neural tube closure. Therefore, in a mouse model that exhibits folic acid-resistant neural tube defects, we tested the effect of specific combinations of pyrimidine and purine nucleotide precursors and observed a significant protective effect. Labelling in whole embryo culture showed that nucleotides are taken up by the neurulating embryo and incorporated into genomic DNA. Furthermore, the mitotic index was elevated in neural folds and hindgut of treated embryos, consistent with a proposed mechanism of neural tube defect prevention through stimulation of cellular proliferation. These findings may provide an impetus for future investigations of supplemental nucleotides as a means to prevent a greater proportion of human neural tube defects than can be achieved by folic acid alone.
neural tube defects; spina bifida; embryo; nucleotides; curly tail
This study applied multiscale entropy analysis to investigate the correlation between the complexity of intracranial pressure waveform and outcome after traumatic brain injury. Intracranial pressure and arterial blood pressure waveforms were low-pass filtered to remove the respiratory and pulse components and then processed using a multiscale entropy algorithm to produce a complexity index. We identified significant differences across groups classified by the Glasgow Outcome Scale in intracranial pressure, pressure-reactivity index and complexity index of intracranial pressure (P < 0.0001; P = 0.001; P < 0.0001, respectively). Outcome was dichotomized as survival/death and also as favourable/unfavourable. The complexity index of intracranial pressure achieved the strongest statistical significance (F = 28.7; P < 0.0001 and F = 17.21; P < 0.0001, respectively) and was identified as a significant independent predictor of mortality and favourable outcome in a multivariable logistic regression model (P < 0.0001). The results of this study suggest that complexity of intracranial pressure assessed by multiscale entropy was significantly associated with outcome in patients with brain injury.
complexity; intracranial pressure; multiscale entropy; traumatic brain injury; outcome
We describe six cases from three unrelated consanguineous Egyptian families with a novel characteristic brain malformation at the level of the diencephalic–mesencephalic junction. Brain magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated a dysplasia of the diencephalic–mesencephalic junction with a characteristic ‘butterfly’-like contour of the midbrain on axial sections. Additional imaging features included variable degrees of supratentorial ventricular dilatation and hypoplasia to complete agenesis of the corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging showed diffuse hypomyelination and lack of an identifiable corticospinal tract. All patients displayed severe cognitive impairment, post-natal progressive microcephaly, axial hypotonia, spastic quadriparesis and seizures. Autistic features were noted in older cases. Talipes equinovarus, non-obstructive cardiomyopathy and persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous were additional findings in two families. One of the patients required shunting for hydrocephalus; however, this yielded no change in ventricular size suggestive of dysplasia rather than obstruction. We propose the term ‘diencephalic–mesencephalic junction dysplasia’ to characterize this autosomal recessive malformation.
diencephalon; mesencephalon; mental retardation; brainstem malformation; brain wiring
Mutations in the ACTA2 gene lead to diffuse and diverse vascular diseases; the Arg179His mutation is associated with an early onset severe phenotype due to global smooth muscle dysfunction. Cerebrovascular disease associated with ACTA2 mutations has been likened to moyamoya disease, but appears to have distinctive features. This study involved the analysis of neuroimaging of 13 patients with heterozygous missense mutations in ACTA2 disrupting Arg179. All patients had persistent ductus arteriosus and congenital mydriasis, and variable presentation of pulmonary hypertension, bladder and gastrointestinal problems associated with this mutation. Distinctive cerebrovascular features were dilatation of proximal internal carotid artery, occlusive disease of terminal internal carotid artery, an abnormally straight course of intracranial arteries, and absent basal ‘moyamoya’ collaterals. Patterns of brain injury supported both large and small vessel disease. Key differences from moyamoya disease were more widespread arteriopathy, the combination of arterial ectasia and stenosis and, importantly, absence of the typical basal ‘moyamoya’ collaterals. Evaluation of previously published cases suggests some of these features are also seen in the ACTA2 mutations disrupting Arg258. The observation that transition from dilated to normal/stenotic arterial calibre coincides with where the internal carotid artery changes from an elastic to muscular artery supports the hypothesis that abnormal smooth muscle cell proliferation caused by ACTA2 mutations is modulated by arterial wall components. Patients with persistent ductus arteriosus or congenital mydriasis with a label of ‘moyamoya’ should be re-evaluated to ensure the distinctive neuroimaging features of an ACTA2 mutation have not been overlooked. This diagnosis has prognostic and genetic implications, and mandates surveillance of other organ systems, in particular the aorta, to prevent life-threatening aortic dissection.
ACTA2; moyamoya; stroke; child
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are commonly used to treat patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. Hippocampal atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging and amyloid-β load on positron emission tomography are associated with the Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. To date, few studies have investigated imaging markers that predict treatment response in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. Our objective was to determine whether imaging markers of Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology such as hippocampal volume, brain amyloid-β load on 11C Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography predict treatment response to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies. We performed a retrospective analysis on consecutive treatment-naive patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (n = 54) from the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre who subsequently received acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and underwent magnetic resonance imaging with hippocampal volumetry. Baseline and follow-up assessments were obtained with the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale. Subjects were divided into three groups (reliable improvement, stable or reliable decline) using Dementia Rating Scale reliable change indices determined previously. Associations between hippocampal volumes and treatment response were tested with analysis of covariance adjusting for baseline Dementia Rating Scale, age, gender, magnetic resonance field strength and Dementia Rating Scale interval. Seven subjects underwent 11C Pittsburgh compound B imaging within 12 weeks of magnetic resonance imaging. Global cortical 11C Pittsburgh compound B retention (scaled to cerebellar retention) was calculated in these patients. Using a conservative psychometric method of assessing treatment response, there were 12 patients with reliable decline, 29 stable cases and 13 patients with reliable improvement. The improvers had significantly larger hippocampi than those that declined (P = 0.02) and the stable (P = 0.04) group. An exploratory analysis demonstrated larger grey matter volumes in the temporal and parietal lobes in improvers compared with those who declined (P < 0.05). The two patients who had a positive 11C Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography scan declined and those who had a negative 11C Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography scan improved or were stable after treatment. Patients with dementia with Lewy bodies who do not have the imaging features of coexistent Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology are more likely to cognitively improve with acetylcholinesterase inhibitor treatment.
dementia with Lewy bodies; acetylcholinesterase inhibitors; MRI; PiB; PET; amyloid
Mutations in GBA, the gene encoding glucocerebrosidase, the enzyme deficient in Gaucher disease, are common risk factors for Parkinson disease, as patients with Parkinson disease are over five times more likely to carry GBA mutations than healthy controls. Patients with GBA mutations generally have an earlier onset of Parkinson disease and more cognitive impairment than those without GBA mutations. We investigated whether GBA mutations alter the neurobiology of Parkinson disease, studying brain dopamine synthesis and resting regional cerebral blood flow in 107 subjects (38 women, 69 men). We measured dopamine synthesis with 18F-fluorodopa positron emission tomography, and resting regional cerebral blood flow with H215O positron emission tomography in the wakeful, resting state in four study groups: (i) patients with Parkinson disease and Gaucher disease (n = 7, average age = 56.6 ± 9.2 years); (ii) patients with Parkinson disease without GBA mutations (n = 11, 62.1 ± 7.1 years); (iii) patients with Gaucher disease without parkinsonism, but with a family history of Parkinson disease (n = 14, 52.6 ± 12.4 years); and (iv) healthy GBA-mutation carriers with a family history of Parkinson disease (n = 7, 50.1 ± 18 years). We compared each study group with a matched control group. Data were analysed with region of interest and voxel-based methods. Disease duration and Parkinson disease functional and staging scores were similar in the two groups with parkinsonism, as was striatal dopamine synthesis: both had greatest loss in the caudal striatum (putamen Ki loss: 44 and 42%, respectively), with less reduction in the caudate (20 and 18% loss). However, the group with both Parkinson and Gaucher diseases showed decreased resting regional cerebral blood flow in the lateral parieto-occipital association cortex and precuneus bilaterally. Furthermore, two subjects with Gaucher disease without parkinsonian manifestations showed diminished striatal dopamine. In conclusion, the pattern of dopamine loss in patients with both Parkinson and Gaucher disease was similar to sporadic Parkinson disease, indicating comparable damage in midbrain neurons. However, H215O positron emission tomography studies indicated that these subjects have decreased resting activity in a pattern characteristic of diffuse Lewy body disease. These findings provide insight into the pathophysiology of GBA-associated parkinsonism.
brain imaging; genetic risk; positron emission tomography (PET); Parkinson disease; lysosomal storage disorders
Migraine is twice as common in females as in males, but the mechanisms behind this difference are still poorly understood. We used high-field magnetic resonance imaging in male and female age-matched interictal (migraine free) migraineurs and matched healthy controls to determine alterations in brain structure. Female migraineurs had thicker posterior insula and precuneus cortices compared with male migraineurs and healthy controls of both sexes. Furthermore, evaluation of functional responses to heat within the migraine groups indicated concurrent functional differences in male and female migraineurs and a sex-specific pattern of functional connectivity of these two regions with the rest of the brain. The results support the notion of a ‘sex phenotype’ in migraine and indicate that brains are differentially affected by migraine in females compared with males. Furthermore, the results also support the notion that sex differences involve both brain structure as well as functional circuits, in that emotional circuitry compared with sensory processing appears involved to a greater degree in female than male migraineurs.
migraine; headache; pain; sex differences; fMRI; morphometry; precuneus; insula
Burst suppression is an electroencephalogram pattern that consists of a quasi-periodic alternation between isoelectric ‘suppressions’ lasting seconds or minutes, and high-voltage ‘bursts’. It is characteristic of a profoundly inactivated brain, occurring in conditions including hypothermia, deep general anaesthesia, infant encephalopathy and coma. It is also used in neurology as an electrophysiological endpoint in pharmacologically induced coma for brain protection after traumatic injury and during status epilepticus. Classically, burst suppression has been regarded as a ‘global’ state with synchronous activity throughout cortex. This assumption has influenced the clinical use of burst suppression as a way to broadly reduce neural activity. However, the extent of spatial homogeneity has not been fully explored due to the challenges in recording from multiple cortical sites simultaneously. The neurophysiological dynamics of large-scale cortical circuits during burst suppression are therefore not well understood. To address this question, we recorded intracranial electrocorticograms from patients who entered burst suppression while receiving propofol general anaesthesia. The electrodes were broadly distributed across cortex, enabling us to examine both the dynamics of burst suppression within local cortical regions and larger-scale network interactions. We found that in contrast to previous characterizations, bursts could be substantially asynchronous across the cortex. Furthermore, the state of burst suppression itself could occur in a limited cortical region while other areas exhibited ongoing continuous activity. In addition, we found a complex temporal structure within bursts, which recapitulated the spectral dynamics of the state preceding burst suppression, and evolved throughout the course of a single burst. Our observations imply that local cortical dynamics are not homogeneous, even during significant brain inactivation. Instead, cortical and, implicitly, subcortical circuits express seemingly different sensitivities to high doses of anaesthetics that suggest a hierarchy governing how the brain enters burst suppression, and emphasize the role of local dynamics in what has previously been regarded as a global state. These findings suggest a conceptual shift in how neurologists could assess the brain function of patients undergoing burst suppression. First, analysing spatial variation in burst suppression could provide insight into the circuit dysfunction underlying a given pathology, and could improve monitoring of medically-induced coma. Second, analysing the temporal dynamics within a burst could help assess the underlying brain state. This approach could be explored as a prognostic tool for recovery from coma, and for guiding treatment of status epilepticus. Overall, these results suggest new research directions and methods that could improve patient monitoring in clinical practice.
intracranial electroencephalogram; human; neurophysiology; general anaesthesia
This study tested the efficacy of audio-visual reading training in nine patients with pure alexia, an acquired reading disorder caused by damage to the left ventral occipitotemporal cortex. As well as testing the therapy’s impact on reading speed, we investigated the functional reorganization underlying therapy-induced behavioural changes using magnetoencephalography. Reading ability was tested twice before training (t1 and t2) and twice after completion of the 6-week training period (t3 and t4). At t3 there was a significant improvement in word reading speed and reduction of the word length effect for trained words only. Magnetoencephalography at t3 demonstrated significant differences in reading network connectivity for trained and untrained words. The training effects were supported by increased bidirectional connectivity between the left occipital and ventral occipitotemporal perilesional cortex, and increased feedback connectivity from the left inferior frontal gyrus. Conversely, connection strengths between right hemisphere regions became weaker after training.
alexia; stroke; reading disorders; connectivity; magnetoencephalography
Psychopathy is a personality disorder associated with a profound lack of empathy. Neuroscientists have associated empathy and its interindividual variation with how strongly participants activate brain regions involved in their own actions, emotions and sensations while viewing those of others. Here we compared brain activity of 18 psychopathic offenders with 26 control subjects while viewing video clips of emotional hand interactions and while experiencing similar interactions. Brain regions involved in experiencing these interactions were not spontaneously activated as strongly in the patient group while viewing the video clips. However, this group difference was markedly reduced when we specifically instructed participants to feel with the actors in the videos. Our results suggest that psychopathy is not a simple incapacity for vicarious activations but rather reduced spontaneous vicarious activations co-existing with relatively normal deliberate counterparts.
vicarious responses; empathy; psychopathy; functional MRI
Recovery of motor function after stroke may occur over weeks or months and is often attributed to neuronal reorganization. Functional imaging studies investigating patients who have made a good recovery after stroke have suggested that recruitment of other motor-related networks underlies this recovery. However, patients with less complete recovery have rarely been studied, or else the degree of recovery has not been taken into account. We set out to investigate the relationship between the degree of recovery after stroke and the pattern of recruitment of brain regions during a motor task as measured using functional MRI. We recruited 20 patients who were at least 3 months after their first ever stroke, and 26 right-handed age-matched control subjects. None of our patients had infarcts involving the hand region of the primary motor cortex. All subjects were scanned whilst performing an isometric, dynamic visually paced handgrip task. The degree of functional recovery of each patient was assessed using a battery of outcome measures. Single-patient versus control group analysis revealed that patients with poor recovery were more likely to recruit a number of motor-related brain regions over and above those seen in the control group during the motor task, whereas patients with more complete recovery were more likely to have ‘normal’ task-related brain activation. Across the whole patient group and across stroke subtypes, we were able to demonstrate a negative correlation between outcome and the degree of task-related activation in regions such as the supplementary motor area, cingulate motor areas, premotor cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and cerebellum. This negative correlation was also seen in parts of both contralateral and ipsilateral primary motor cortex. These results further our understanding of the recovery process by demonstrating for the first time a clear relationship between task-related activation of the motor system and outcome after stroke.
stroke recovery; functional MRI; motor system; neuronal plasticity
Recovery of motor function after stroke may occur over weeks or months and is often attributed to cerebral reorganization. We have investigated the longitudinal relationship between recovery after stroke and task-related brain activation during a motor task as measured using functional MRI (fMRI). Eight first-ever stroke patients presenting with hemiparesis resulting from cerebral infarction sparing the primary motor cortex, and four control subjects were recruited. Subjects were scanned on a number of occasions whilst performing an isometric dynamic visually paced hand grip task. Recovery in the patient group was assessed using a battery of outcome measures at each time point. Task-related brain activations decreased over sessions as a function of recovery in a number of primary and non-primary motor regions in all patients, but no session effects were seen in the controls. Furthermore, consistent decreases across sessions correlating with recovery were seen across the whole patient group independent of rate of recovery or initial severity, in primary motor cortex, premotor and prefrontal cortex, supplementary motor areas, cingulate sulcus, temporal lobe, striate cortex, cerebellum, thalamus and basal ganglia. Although recovery-related increases were seen in different brain regions in four patients, there were no consistent effects across the group. These results further our understanding of the recovery process by demonstrating for the first time a clear temporal relationship between recovery and task-related activation of the motor system after stroke.
stroke recovery; longitudinal functional MRI; motor system; neuronal plasticity
Movement-related brain activation patterns after subcortical stroke are characterized by relative overactivations in cortical motor areas compared with controls. In patients able to perform a motor task, overactivations are greater in those with more motor impairment. We hypothesized that recruitment of motor regions would shift from primary to secondary motor networks in response to impaired functional integrity of the corticospinal system (CSS). We measured the magnitude of brain activation using functional MRI during a motor task in eight chronic subcortical stroke patients. CSS functional integrity was assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation to obtain stimulus/response curves for the affected first dorsal interosseus muscle, with a shallower gradient representing increasing disruption of CSS functional integrity. A negative correlation between the gradient of stimulus/response curve and magnitude of task-related brain activation was found in several motor-related regions, including ipsilesional posterior primary motor cortex [Brodmann area (BA) 4p], contralesional anterior primary motor cortex (BA 4a), bilateral premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, intraparietal sulcus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and contralesional superior cingulate sulcus. There were no significant positive correlations in any brain region. These results suggest that impaired functional integrity of the CSS is associated with recruitment of secondary motor networks in both hemispheres in an attempt to generate motor output to spinal cord motoneurons. Secondary motor regions are less efficient at generating motor output so this reorganization can only be considered partially successful in reducing motor impairment after stroke.
functional brain imaging; motor recovery; motor system; stroke
Age-related neurodegenerative and neurochemical changes are thought to underlie decline in motor and cognitive functions, but compensatory processes in cortical and subcortical function may allow maintenance of performance level in some people. Our objective was to investigate age-related changes in the motor system of the human brain using functional MRI. Twenty six right handed volunteers were scanned whilst performing an isometric, dynamic, visually paced hand grip task, using dominant (right) and non-dominant (left) hands in separate sessions. Hand grip with visual feedback activated a network of cortical and subcortical regions known to be involved in the generation of simple motor acts. In addition, activation was seen in a putative human ‘grasping circuit’, involving rostral ventral premotor cortex (Brodmann area 44) and intraparietal sulcus. Within this network, a number of regions were more likely to be activated the older the subject. In particular, age-related changes in task-specific activations were demonstrated in left deep anterior central sulcus when using the dominant or non-dominant hand. Additional age-related increases were seen in caudal dorsal premotor cortex, caudal cingulate sulcus, intraparietal sulcus, insula, frontal operculum and cerebellar vermis. We have demonstrated a clear age-related effect in the neural correlates of motor performance, and furthermore suggest that these changes are non-linear. These results support the notion that an adaptable and plastic motor network is able to respond to age-related degenerative changes in order to maintain performance levels.
ageing; functional MRI; hand grip; motor system
Recovery of motor function after subcortical stroke appears to be related to the integrity of descending connections from the ipsilesional cortical motor system, a view supported by the observation of greater than normal movement-related activation in ipsilesional motor regions in chronic subcortical stroke patients. This suggests that damage to the descending output fibres from one region of the cortical motor system may be compensated by activity in areas that retain corticofugal outputs. Though the trajectories of corticofugal fibres from each major component of the motor system through the corona radiata and internal capsule are well described in non-human primates, they have not been described fully in humans. Our study set out to map the trajectories of these connections in a group of healthy volunteers (8 male, 4 female; age range = 31–68 years, median = 48.5 years) and establish whether this knowledge can be used to assess stroke-induced disconnection of the cortical motor system and better interpret functional reorganization of the cortical motor system. We describe the trajectories of the connections from each major component of the motor system to the cerebral peduncle using diffusion-weighted imaging and probabilistic tractography in normal subjects. We observed good reproducibility of these connections over subjects. The comparative topography of these connections revealed many similarities between humans and other primates. We then inferred damage to corticofugal pathways in stroke patients (n = 3) by comparing the overlap between regions of subcortical white matter damage with the trajectories of the connections to each motor area. In a small series of case studies, we found that inferred disconnections could explain enhanced hand-grip-related responses, as assessed with functional MRI, in the ipsilesional motor system. These results confirm that selective disruption of motor corticofugal fibres influences functional reorganization and outcome in individual patients.
diffusion tensor; tractography; stroke; motor recovery; functional MRI
While individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are typically impaired in interpreting the communicative intent of others, little is known about the neural bases of higher-level pragmatic impairments. Here, we used functional MRI (fMRI) to examine the neural circuitry underlying deficits in understanding irony in high-functioning children with ASD. Participants listened to short scenarios and decided whether the speaker was sincere or ironic. Three types of scenarios were used in which we varied the information available to guide this decision. Scenarios included (i) both knowledge of the event outcome and strong prosodic cues (sincere or sarcastic intonation), (ii) prosodic cues only or (iii) knowledge of the event outcome only. Although children with ASD performed well above chance, they were less accurate than typically developing (TD) children at interpreting the communicative intent behind a potentially ironic remark, particularly with regard to taking advantage of available contextual information. In contrast to prior research showing hypoactivation of regions involved in understanding the mental states of others, children with ASD showed significantly greater activity than TD children in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) as well as in bilateral temporal regions. Increased activity in the ASD group fell within the network recruited in the TD group and may reflect more effortful processing needed to interpret the intended meaning of an utterance. These results confirm that children with ASD have difficulty interpreting the communicative intent of others and suggest that these individuals can recruit regions activated as part of the normative neural circuitry when task demands require explicit attention to socially relevant cues.
autism; brain development; fMRI; language pragmatics; social cognition
Patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease exhibit impairments in executive processes, including planning and set-shifting, even at the early stages of the disease. We have recently developed a new card-sorting task to study the specific role of the caudate nucleus in such executive processes and have shown, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in young healthy adults, that the caudate nucleus is specifically required when a set-shift must be planned. Here the same fMRI protocol was used to compare the patterns of activation in a group of early-stage Parkinson’s disease patients (seven right-handed patients at Hoehn and Yahr stages 1 and 2; mean age 62 years, range 56–70) and matched control subjects. Increased cortical activation was observed in the patients compared with the control group in the condition not specifically requiring the caudate nucleus. On the other hand, decreased cortical activation was observed in the patient group in the condition significantly involving the caudate nucleus. This event-related fMRI study showed a pattern of cortical activation in Parkinson’s disease characterized by either reduced or increased activation depending on whether the caudate nucleus was involved or not in the task. This activation pattern included not only the prefrontal regions but also posterior cortical areas in the parietal and prestriate cortex. These findings are not in agreement with the traditional model, which proposes that the nigrostriatal dopamine depletion results in decreased cortical activity. These observations provide further evidence in favour of the hypothesis that not only the nigrostriatal and but also the mesocortical dopaminergic substrate may play a significant role in the cognitive deficits observed in Parkinson’s disease.
PMID: 17121746 CAMSID: cams3203
executive functions; fMRI; Parkinson’s disease; set-shifting; striatum
The apolipoprotein E ε4 gene is the most important genetic risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, but the link between this gene and neurodegeneration remains unclear. Using array tomography, we analysed >50 000 synapses in brains of 11 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and five non-demented control subjects and found that synapse loss around senile plaques in Alzheimer’s disease correlates with the burden of oligomeric amyloid-β in the neuropil and that this synaptotoxic oligomerized peptide is present at a subset of synapses. Further analysis reveals apolipoprotein E ε4 patients with Alzheimer’s disease have significantly higher oligomeric amyloid-β burden and exacerbated synapse loss around plaques compared with apolipoprotein E ε3 patients. Apolipoprotein E4 protein colocalizes with oligomeric amyloid-β and enhances synaptic localization of oligomeric amyloid-β by >5-fold. Biochemical characterization shows that the amyloid-β enriched at synapses by apolipoprotein E4 includes sodium dodecyl sulphate-stable dimers and trimers. In mouse primary neuronal culture, lipidated apolipoprotein E4 enhances oligomeric amyloid-β association with synapses via a mechanism involving apolipoprotein E receptors. Together, these data suggest that apolipoprotein E4 is a co-factor that enhances the toxicity of oligomeric amyloid-β both by increasing its levels and directing it to synapses, providing a link between apolipoprotein E ε4 genotype and synapse loss, a major correlate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer's disease; apolipoprotein E; synapse; array tomography; oligomeric amyloid-β