Decline in executive function is the most common age-associated cognitive deficit and may be a risk factor for neurodegenerative disease. The antisaccade (AS) task involves inhibition of a prepotent visuomotor response and is a well-validated executive function test in aging and neurodegeneration. We investigated the functional connectivity of the cortical oculomotor network during successful AS performance in healthy elders. Elevated BOLD activity in the right lateral frontal eye field (rlatFEF), a region linked to volume loss in individuals with impaired AS performance, was associated with worse AS performance and weaker network efficiency. In contrast, hub integrity of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) was associated with better AS performance. These data suggest that while several right lateral frontal regions are central nodes in the oculomotor network, the rlatFEF demonstrates early neural aberrations and the rDLPFC and rACC continue to support inhibitory cognitive control in healthy elders. We conclude that alterations in AS task functional connectivity, quantified as hub and network efficiency, may be clinically-relevant biomarkers of cognitive decline in executive functioning.
executive function; graph theory; aging; fMRI; antisaccade
Elevated CSF tau is considered a biomarker of neuronal injury in newly developed Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) criteria. However, previous studies have failed to detect alterations of tau species in other primary tauopathies. We assessed CSF tau protein abnormalities in AD, a tauopathy with prominent Aβ pathology, and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a primary tauopathy characterized by deposition of four microtubule binding repeat (4R) tau with minimal Aβ pathology.
26 normal control (NC), 37 AD, and 24 PSP patients participated in the study. AD and PSP were matched for severity using the clinical dementia rating sum of boxes (CDR-sb) scores. The INNO BIA AlzBio3 multiplex immunoassay was used to measure CSF Aβ, total tau, and ptau181. Additional, novel ELISAs targeting different N-terminal and central tau epitopes were developed to examine CSF tau components and to investigate interactions between diagnostic group, demographics, and genetic variables.
PSP had lower CSF N-terminal and C-terminal tau concentrations than NC and AD measured with both the novel tau ELISAs and the standard AlzBio3 tau and ptau assays. AD had higher total tau and ptau levels than NC and PSP. There was a gender by diagnosis interaction in both AD and PSP for most tau species, with lower concentrations for male compared to female patients.
CSF tau fragment concentrations are different in PSP compared with AD despite the presence of severe tau pathology and neuronal injury in both disorders. CSF tau concentration likely reflects multiple factors in addition to the degree of neuronal injury.
Alzheimer’s disease; Progressive supranuclear palsy; CSF; Tau
Blood‐based biomarkers for neurodegenerative conditions could improve diagnosis and treatment development. Neurofilament light chain (NfL), a marker of axonal injury, is elevated in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). The goal of this study was to determine the diagnostic and prognostic value of plasma NfL in patients with PSP.
Plasma NfL was measured with ultrasensitive digital immunoassay‐based technology at baseline and 1‐year follow‐up in a pilot cohort of 15 PSP patients and 12 healthy controls, and a validation cohort of 147 PSP patients. Mixed linear models tested the ability of plasma NfL to predict neurological, cognitive and functional decline, and brain atrophy.
Baseline mean plasma NfL levels were elevated in PSP patients (31 ± 4 pg/mL, vs. control, 17.5 ± 1 pg/mL, P < 0.05) and this difference persisted at follow‐up. A cutoff value of 20 pg/mL related to the diagnosis of PSP with a sensitivity of 0.80 and specificity of 0.83 (positive likelihood ratio = 4.7 and a negative likelihood radio of 0.24). Patients with higher NfL levels had more severe neurological (PSPRS, −36.9% vs. −28.9%, P = 0.04), functional (SEADL, −38.2% vs. −20%, P = 0.03), and neuropsychological (RBANS, −23.9% vs. −12.3%, P = 001) deterioration over 1 year. Higher baseline NfL predicted greater whole‐brain and superior cerebellar peduncle volume loss. Plasma and CSF NfL were significantly correlated (r = 0.74, P = 0.002).
Plasma NfL is elevated in PSP and could be of value as a biomarker both to assist clinical diagnosis and to monitor pharmacodynamic effects on the neurodegenerative process in clinical trials.
Recent evidence indicates that sensory and motor changes may precede the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by several years and may signify increased risk of developing AD. Traditionally, sensory and motor dysfunctions in aging and AD have been studied separately. To ascertain the evidence supporting the relationship between age-related changes in sensory and motor systems and the development of AD and to facilitate communication between several disciplines, the National Institute on Aging held an exploratory workshop titled “Sensory and Motor Dysfunctions in Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease”. The scientific sessions of the workshop focused on age-related and neuropathological changes in the olfactory, visual, auditory, and motor systems, followed by extensive discussion and hypothesis generation related to the possible links among sensory, cognitive, and motor domains in aging and AD. Based on the data presented and discussed at this workshop, it is clear that sensory and motor regions of the CNS are affected by Alzheimer pathology and that interventions targeting amelioration of sensory-motor deficits in AD may enhance patient function as AD progresses.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurofilament light chain (NfL) concentration is elevated in neurological disorders including frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). We investigated the clinical correlates of elevated CSF NfL levels in FTD.
CSF NfL, amyloid-β42 (Aβ42), tau and phosphorylated tau (ptau) concentrations were compared in 47 normal controls (NC), 8 asymptomatic gene carriers (NC2) of FTD-causing mutations, 79 FTD (45 behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia [bvFTD], 18 progressive nonfluent aphasia [PNFA], 16 semantic dementia [SD]), 22 progressive supranuclear palsy, 50 Alzheimer’s disease, 6 Parkinson’s disease and 17 corticobasal syndrome patients. Correlations between CSF analyte levels were performed with neuropsychological measures and the Clinical Dementia Rating scale sum of boxes (CDRsb). Voxel-based morphometry of structural MR images determined the relationship between brain volume and CSF NfL.
Mean CSF NfL concentrations were higher in bvFTD, SD and PNFA than other groups. NfL in NC2 was similar to NC. CSF NfL, but not other CSF measures, correlated with CDRsb and neuropsychological measures in FTD, and not in other diagnostic groups. Analyses in two independent FTD cohorts and a group of autopsy verified or biomarker enriched cases confirmed the larger group analysis. In FTD, gray and white matter volume negatively correlated with CSF NfL concentration, such that individuals with highest NfL levels exhibited the most atrophy.
CSF NfL is elevated in symptomatic FTD and correlates with disease severity. This measurement may be a useful surrogate endpoint of disease severity in FTD clinical trials. Longitudinal studies of CSF NfL in FTD are warranted.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 represents the most common genetic cause of familial and sporadic behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Previous studies show that some C9orf72 carriers with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia exhibit distinctive atrophy patterns whereas others show mild or undetectable atrophy despite severe behavioural impairment. To explore this observation, we examined intrinsic connectivity network integrity in patients with or without the C9orf72 expansion. We studied 28 patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, including 14 C9orf72 mutation carriers (age 58.3 ± 7.7 years, four females) and 14 non-carriers (age 60.8 ± 6.9 years, four females), and 14 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Both patient groups included five patients with comorbid motor neuron disease. Neuropsychological data, structural brain magnetic resonance imaging, and task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging were obtained. Voxel-based morphometry delineated atrophy patterns, and seed-based intrinsic connectivity analyses enabled group comparisons of the salience, sensorimotor, and default mode networks. Single-patient analyses were used to explore network imaging as a potential biomarker. Despite contrasting atrophy patterns in C9orf72 carriers versus non-carriers, patient groups showed topographically similar connectivity reductions in the salience and sensorimotor networks. Patients without C9orf72 expansions exhibited increases in default mode network connectivity compared to controls and mutation carriers. Across all patients, behavioural symptom severity correlated with diminished salience network connectivity and heightened default mode network connectivity. In C9orf72 carriers, salience network connectivity reduction correlated with atrophy in the left medial pulvinar thalamic nucleus, and this region further showed diminished connectivity with key salience network hubs. Single-patient analyses revealed salience network disruption and default mode network connectivity enhancement in C9orf72 carriers with early-stage or slowly progressive symptoms. The findings suggest that patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without the C9orf72 expansion show convergent large-scale network breakdowns despite distinctive atrophy patterns. Medial pulvinar degeneration may contribute to the behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia syndrome in C9orf72 carriers by disrupting salience network connectivity. Task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging shows promise in detecting early-stage disease in C9orf72 carriers and may provide a unifying biomarker across diverse anatomical variants.
frontotemporal dementia; functional connectivity; dementia; biomarkers; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) is a common cause of dementia for which there are currently no approved therapies. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of knowledge about the biology and clinical features of FTD that has identified a number of promising therapeutic targets as well as animal models in which to develop drugs. The close association of some forms of FTD with neuropathological accumulation of tau protein or increased neuroinflammation due to progranulin protein deficiency suggests that a drug’s success in treating FTD may predict efficacy in more common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A variety of regulatory incentives, clinical features of FTD, such as rapid disease progression, and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other more common neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In March 2011, the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG) sponsored a conference entitled,“ FTD, the Next Therapeutic Frontier,” focused on pre-clinical aspects of FTD drug development. The goal of the meeting was to promote collaborations between academic researchers and biotechnology and pharmaceutical researchers to accelerate the development of new treatments for FTD. Here we report the key findings from the conference, including the rationale for FTD drug development, epidemiological, genetic and neuropathological features of FTD, FTD animal models and how best to use them and examples of successful drug-development collaborations in other neurodegenerative diseases.
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) encompasses a spectrum of related neurodegenerative disorders with behavioral, language and motor phenotypes for which there are currently no effective therapies. This manuscript is the second of two articles that summarize the presentations and discussions that occurred at two symposia in 2011 sponsored by the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG), a collaborative group of academic and industry researchers that is devoted to developing treatments for FTD. This manuscript discusses the current status of FTD clinical research that is relevant to the conduct of clinical trials and why FTD research may be an attractive pathway for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The clinical and molecular features of FTD, including rapid disease progression and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other dementias. FTD qualifies as orphan indication, providing additional advantages for drug development. Two recent sets of consensus diagnostic criteria will facilitate the identification of patients with FTD, and a variety of neuropsychological, functional and behavioral scales have been shown to be sensitive to disease progression. Moreover, quantitative neuroimaging measurements demonstrate progressive brain atrophy in FTD at rates that may surpass Alzheimer's disease (AD). Finally, the similarities between FTD and other neurodegenerative diseases with drug development efforts already underway suggest that FTD researchers will be able to draw upon this experience to create a roadmap for FTD drug development. We conclude that FTD research has reached sufficient maturity to pursue clinical development of specific FTD therapies.
Memantine has been used off-label to treat frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTD). A previous 26 week open label study suggested a transient, modest benefit on neuropsychiatric symptoms as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
We performed a randomized, parallel group, double blind, placebo controlled trial of 20 mg memantine taken orally daily for 26 weeks in FTD. Participants met Neary criteria for behavioral variant (bvFTD) or semantic dementia (SD) and had characteristic brain atrophy. Use of cholinesterase inhibitors was prohibited. The objective of the study was to determine whether memantine is an effective treatment for FTD. Individuals were randomized to memantine or matched placebo tablets in blocks of two and four. Primary endpoints were the change in total NPI score and Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) scores after 26 weeks. Secondary outcomes included a neuropsychological battery, and other cognitive, global and activity of daily living measures. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00545974
100 subjects were screened, 81 were randomized, 5 (6%) discontinued and 76 completed all visits. Enrollment numbers were lower than planned due to many subjects’ preference to take memantine or cholinesterase inhibitors off-label rather than participate in a clinical trial. 39 memantine and 42 placebo subjects entered the primary intent to treat analysis. There was no effect of memantine treatment on either the NPI (mean difference [MD] 2.2, 95%CI: −3.9, 8.3, p = 0.47) or CGIC (MD 0, 95%CI: −0.4, 0.4, p = 0.90) after 26 weeks of treatment. Memantine was generally well tolerated, however there were more frequent cognitive adverse events in the memantine group.
There was no benefit of memantine treatment in bvFTD or SD. These data do not support memantine use in FTD.
Forest Research Institute
Davunetide (AL-108, NAP) is an eightamino acid peptide that promotes microtubule stability and decreases tau phosphorylation in pre-clinical studies. Since PSP is tightly linked to tau pathology, davunetide could be an effective treatment for PSP.The goals of this study were to evaluate the efficacy and safety of davunetide in PSP.
A phase 2/3 double-blind, parallel group, clinical trial of davunetide 30 mg or placebo (randomized 1:1) administered intranasally twice daily for 52 weeks was conducted at 48centers. Participants met modifiedNNIPPS criteria for possible or probable PSP. Co-primary endpointswere the change from baseline in PSP Rating Scale (PSPRS) and Schwab and England ADL(SEADL) scale at up to 52 weeks. Data from all individuals who received at least one dose of medication and had a post-baseline efficacy assessment were compared using a rank-based method.Secondary outcomes included the Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) and the change in regional brain volumeon MRI. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01110720.
360 participants were screened, 313 were randomized and 243 (77.6%) completed the study. There were no group differences in PSPRS (mean difference: 0.49 [95% CI: −1.5, 2.5], p = 0.72) or SEADL (1% [−2, 4%], p = 0.76) change from baseline (CFB) and mean 52 week CFB PSPRS scores were similar between the davunetide (11.3 [9.8,12.8]) and placebo groups (10.9 [9.1, 13.0]). There wereno differences in any of the secondary or exploratory endpoints. There were 11deaths in the davunetide group and tenin the placebo group. There were more nasal adverse events in the davunetide group.
Davunetide is well tolerated but is not an effective treatment for PSP. Clinical trials of disease modifying therapy are feasible in PSP and should be pursued with other promising tau-directed therapies.
Executive functioning is widely targeted when human cognition is assessed, but there is little consensus on how it should be operationalized and measured. Recognizing the difficulties associated with establishing standard operational definitions of executive functioning, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke entered into a contract with the University of California-San Francisco to develop psychometrically robust executive measurement tools that would be accepted by the neurology clinical trials and clinical research communities. This effort, entitled Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER), resulted in a series of tasks targeting working memory, inhibition, set shifting, fluency, insight, planning, social cognition and behavior. We describe battery conceptualization and development, data collection, scale construction based on item response theory, and lay the foundation for studying the battery’s utility and validity for specific assessment and research goals.
working memory; cognitive control; fluency; planning; social cognition; item response theory
Some patients meeting behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) diagnostic criteria progress slowly and plateau at mild symptom severity. Such patients have mild neuropsychological and functional impairments, lack characteristic bvFTD brain atrophy, and have thus been referred to as bvFTD “phenocopies” or slowly progressive (bvFTD-SP). The few patients with bvFTD-SP that have been studied at autopsy have found no evidence of FTD pathology, suggesting that bvFTD-SP is neuropathologically distinct from other forms of FTD. Here, we describe two patients with bvFTD-SP with chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide expansions.
Three hundred and eighty-four patients with FTD clinical spectrum and Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses were screened for C9ORF72 expansion. Two bvFTD-SP mutation carriers were identified. Neuropsychological and functional data, as well as brain atrophy patterns assessed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), were compared with 44 patients with sporadic bvFTD and 85 healthy controls.
Both patients were age 48 at baseline and met possible bvFTD criteria. In the first patient, VBM revealed thalamic and posterior insula atrophy. Over seven years, his neuropsychological performance and brain atrophy remained stable. In the second patient, VBM revealed cortical atrophy with subtle frontal and insular volume loss. Over two years, her neuropsychological and functional scores as well as brain atrophy remained stable.
C9ORF72 mutations can present with a bvFTD-SP phenotype. Some bvFTD-SP patients may have neurodegenerative pathology, and C9ORF72 mutations should be considered in patients with bvFTD-SP and a family history of dementia or motor neuron disease.
C9ORF72; C9FTD/ALS; frontotemporal dementia; genetics; dementia
Frontotemporal dementia-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) is a heritable form of FTD, but the gene(s) responsible for the majority of autosomal dominant FTD-ALS cases have yet to be found. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 9p that is associated with FTD and ALS.
The authors report the clinical, volumetric MRI, neuropathological and genetic features of a new chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS family, VSM-20.
Ten members of family VSM-20 displayed heterogeneous clinical phenotypes of isolated behavioural-variant FTD (bvFTD), ALS or a combination of the two. Parkinsonism was common, with one individual presenting with a corticobasal syndrome. Analysis of structural MRI scans from five affected family members revealed grey- and white-matter loss that was most prominent in the frontal lobes, with mild parietal and occipital lobe atrophy, but less temporal lobe atrophy than in 10 severity-matched sporadic bvFTD cases. Autopsy in three family members showed a consistent and unique subtype of FTLD-TDP pathology. Genome-wide linkage analysis conclusively linked family VSM-20 to a 28.3 cM region between D9S1808 and D9S251 on chromosome 9p, reducing the published minimal linked region to a 3.7 Mb interval. Genomic sequencing and expression analysis failed to identify mutations in the 10 known and predicted genes within this candidate region, suggesting that next-generation sequencing may be needed to determine the mutational mechanism associated with chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS.
Family VSM-20 significantly reduces the region linked to FTD-ALS on chromosome 9p. A distinct pattern of brain atrophy and neuropathological findings may help to identify other families with FTD-ALS caused by this genetic abnormality.
While patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) show deficits in attention, manifested by inefficient performance on visual search, new visual talents can emerge in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), suggesting that, at least in some of the patients, visual attention is spared, if not enhanced. To investigate the underlying mechanisms for visual talent in FTLD (behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD] and semantic dementia [SD]) patients, we measured performance on a visual search paradigm that includes both feature and conjunction search, while simultaneously monitoring saccadic eye movements. AD patients were impaired relative to healthy controls (NC) and FTLD patients on both feature and conjunction search. BvFTD patients showed less accurate performance only on the conjunction search task, but slower response times than NC on all three tasks. In contrast, SD patients were as accurate as controls and had faster response times when faced with the largest number of distracters in the conjunction search task. Measurement of saccades during visual search showed that AD patients explored more of the image, whereas SD patients explored less of the image before making a decision as to whether the target was present. Performance on the conjunction search task positively correlated with gray matter volume in the superior parietal lobe, precuneus, middle frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus. These data suggest that despite the presence of extensive temporal lobe degeneration, visual talent in SD may be facilitated by more efficient visual search under distracting conditions due to enhanced function in the dorsal frontoparietal attention network.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; conjunction search; voxel-based morphometry; eye movements
Group comparisons demonstrate greater visuospatial and memory deficits and temporoparietal-predominant degeneration on neuroimaging in patients with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) found to have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology versus those with underlying frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The value of these features in predicting underlying AD pathology in individual patients is unknown. The goal of this study is to evaluate the utility of modified clinical criteria and visual interpretations of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) for predicting amyloid deposition (as a surrogate of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology) in patients presenting with CBS.
In total, 25 patients meeting CBS core criteria underwent amyloid (Pittsburgh compound B; PIB) PET scans. Clinical records, MRI, and FDG scans were reviewed blinded to PIB results. Modified clinical criteria were used to classify CBS patients as temporoparietal variant CBS (tpvCBS) or frontal variant CBS (fvCBS). MRI and FDG-PET were classified based on the predominant atrophy/hypometabolism pattern (frontal or temporoparietal).
A total of 9 out of 13 patients classified as tpvCBS were PIB+, compared to 2out of 12 patients classified as fvCBS (P < 0.01, sensitivity 82%, specificity 71% for PIB+ status). Visual MRI reads had 73% sensitivity and 46% specificity for PIB+ status with moderate intra-rater reliability (Cohen’s kappa = 0.42). Visual FDG reads had higher sensitivity (91%) for PIB+ status with perfect intra-rater reliability (kappa = 1.00), though specificity was low (50%). PIB results were confirmed in all 8 patients with available histopathology (3 PIB+ with confirmed AD, 5 PIB- with FTLD).
Splitting CBS patients into frontal or temporoparietal clinical variants can help predict the likelihood of underlying AD, but criteria require further refinement. Temporoparietal-predominant neuroimaging patterns are sensitive but not specific for AD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13195-014-0093-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications indicated for the treatment of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). We sought to determine the most commonly used drugs used to treat behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) in specialized dementia clinics.
Medication and demographic data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers of California (ARCC) and a multicenter FTD natural history study (NHS) data set were compared in bvFTD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and effects of demographic variables were assessed using logistic regression.
Overall, the percentage of patients taking one or more FDA-approved AD or psychiatric medications was similar in bvFTD and AD; however, after controlling for demographic variables, acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChI) use was less common in bvFTD, whereas memantine use remained similar in the 2 groups.
Despite lack of evidence for efficacy, the use of AChIs and memantine is common in bvFTD. Clinical trials should be pursued to determine the optimal therapeutic interventions for bvFTD.
frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; treatment; donepezil; memantine; galantamine; antipsychotic agents
Recently, Coppola and colleagues demonstrated that a rare MAPT sequence variant, c.454G>A (p.A152T), significantly increases the risk of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) spectrum disorders and Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a screen of 15,369 subjects1. We describe clinical features of 9 patients with neurodegenerative disease (4 women) harboring p.A152T, aged 51 to 79 years at symptom onset. Seven developed FTD spectrum clinical syndromes, including progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSP, n=2), behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD, n=1), nonfluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA, n=2), and corticobasal syndrome (CBS, n=2); two patients were diagnosed with clinical AD. Thus, MAPT p.A152T is associated with a variety of FTD spectrum clinical presentations, although patients with clinical AD are also identified. These data warrant larger studies with clinicopathological correlation to elucidate the influence of this genetic variant on neurodegenerative disease.
All Cognitive Disorders/Dementia; Alzheimer's disease; Frontotemporal Dementia; Corticobasal degeneration; Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
Deficits in the ability to suppress automatic behaviors lead to impaired decision making, aberrant motor behavior, and impaired social function in humans with frontal lobe neurodegeneration. We have studied patients with different patterns of frontal lobe dysfunction resulting from frontotemporal lobar degeneration or Alzheimer's disease, investigating their ability to perform visually guided saccades and smooth pursuit eye movements and to suppress visually guided saccades on the antisaccade task. Patients with clinical syndromes associated with dorsal frontal lobe damage had normal visually guided saccades but were impaired relative to other patients and control subjects in smooth pursuit eye movements and on the antisaccade task. The percentage of correct antisaccade responses was correlated with neuropsychological measures of frontal lobe function and with estimates of frontal lobe gray matter volume based on analyses of structural magnetic resonance images. After controlling for age, gender, cognitive status, and potential interactions between disease group and oculomotor function, an unbiased voxel-based morphometric analysis identified the volume of a segment of the right frontal eye field (FEF) as positively correlated with antisaccade performance (less volume equaled lower percentage of correct responses) but not with either pursuit performance or antisaccade or visually guided saccade latency or gain. In contrast, the volume of the presupplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and a portion of the supplementary eye fields correlated with antisaccade latency (less volume equaled shorter latency) but not with the percentage of correct responses. These results suggest that integrity of the presupplementary motion area/ supplementary eye fields is critical for supervisory processes that slow the onset of saccades, facilitating voluntary saccade targeting decisions that rely on the FEF.
antisaccade; smooth pursuit; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; presupplementary motor area; supplementary eye field; frontal eye field; brain volume
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) often overlaps clinically with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), both of which have prominent eye movement abnormalities. To investigate the ability of oculomotor performance to differentiate between FTLD, Alzheimer's disease, CBS and PSP, saccades and smooth pursuit were measured in three FTLD subtypes, including 24 individuals with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 19 with semantic dementia (SD) and six with progressive non-fluent aphasia (PA), as compared to 28 individuals with Alzheimer's disease, 15 with CBS, 10 with PSP and 27 control subjects. Different combinations of oculomotor abnormalities were identified in all clinical syndromes except for SD, which had oculomotor performance that was indistinguishable from age-matched controls. Only PSP patients displayed abnormalities in saccade velocity, whereas abnormalities in saccade gain were observed in PSP > CBS > Alzheimer's disease subjects. All patient groups except those with SD were impaired on the anti-saccade task, however only the FTLD subjects and not Alzheimer's disease, CBS or PSP groups, were able to spontaneously self-correct anti-saccade errors as well as controls. Receiver operating characteristic statistics demonstrated that oculomotor findings were superior to neuropsychological tests in differentiating PSP from other disorders, and comparable to neuropsychological tests in differentiating the other patient groups. These data suggest that oculomotor assessment may aid in the diagnosis of FTLD and related disorders.
oculomotor; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; corticobasal syndrome; progressive supranuclear palsy; Alzheimer's disease
The aetiology and pathogenesis of non-genetic forms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is unknown and even with the genetic forms of FTD, pathogenesis remains elusive. Given the association between systemic inflammation and other neurodegenerative processes, links between autoimmunity and FTD need to be explored.
To describe the prevalence of systemic autoimmune disease in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), a clinical cohort, and in progranulin (PGRN) mutation carriers compared to neurologically healthy normal controls (NC) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as dementia controls.
Academic medical centres.
129 svPPA, 39 PGRN, 186 NC, and 158 AD patients underwent chart review for autoimmune conditions. A large subset of svPPA, PGRN, and NC cohorts underwent serum analysis for tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) levels.
Chi-square comparison of autoimmune prevalence and follow up logistic regression.
There was a significantly increased risk of autoimmune disorders clustered around inflammatory arthritides, cutaneous disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions in the svPPA and PGRN cohorts. Elevated TNF-α levels were observed in svPPA and PGRN compared to NC.
svPPA and PGRN are associated with increased prevalence of specific and related autoimmune diseases compared to NC and AD. These findings suggest a unique pattern of systemic inflammation in svPPA and PGRN and open new research avenues for understanding and treating disorders associated with underlying transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) aggregation.
The objective of this study was to determine which aspects of executive functions are most affected in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and best differentiate this syndrome from Alzheimer disease (AD).
We compared executive functions in 22 patients diagnosed with bvFTD, 26 with AD, and 31 neurologically healthy controls using a conceptually driven and comprehensive battery of executive function tests, the NIH EXAMINER battery (http://examiner.ucsf.edu).
The bvFTD and the AD patients were similarly impaired compared with controls on tests of working memory, category fluency, and attention, but the patients with bvFTD showed significantly more severe impairments than the patients with AD on tests of letter fluency, antisaccade accuracy, social decision-making, and social behavior. Discriminant function analysis with jackknifed cross-validation classified the bvFTD and AD patient groups with 73% accuracy.
Executive function assessment can support bvFTD diagnosis when measures are carefully selected to emphasize frontally specific functions.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) has been conceptualized as a large-scale network disruption, but the specific network targeted has not been fully characterized. We sought to delineate the affected network in patients with clinical PSP.
Using task-free fMRI, we mapped intrinsic connectivity to the dorsal midbrain tegmentum (dMT), a region which shows focal atrophy in PSP. Two healthy control groups (1 young, 1 older) were used to define and replicate the normal connectivity pattern, and patients with PSP were compared to an independent matched healthy control group on measures of network connectivity.
Healthy young and older subjects showed a convergent pattern of connectivity to the dMT, including brainstem, cerebellar, diencephalic, basal ganglia, and cortical regions involved in skeletal, oculomotor, and executive control. Patients with PSP showed significant connectivity disruptions within this network, particularly within cortico-subcortical and cortico-brainstem interactions. Patients with more severe functional impairment showed lower mean dMT network connectivity scores.
This study defines a PSP-related intrinsic connectivity network in the healthy brain and demonstrates the sensitivity of network-based imaging methods to PSP-related physiological and clinical changes.
Little is known about how changes in DNA methylation mediate risk for human diseases including dementia. Analysis of genome-wide methylation patterns in patients with two forms of tau-related dementia – progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – revealed significant differentially methylated probes (DMPs) in patients versus unaffected controls. Remarkably, DMPs in PSP were clustered within the 17q21.31 region, previously known to harbor the major genetic risk factor for PSP. We identified and replicated a dose-dependent effect of the risk-associated H1 haplotype on methylation levels within the region in blood and brain. These data reveal that the H1 haplotype increases risk for tauopathy via differential methylation at that locus, indicating a mediating role for methylation in dementia pathophysiology.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two neurodegenerative diseases linked, at the pathologic and genetic level, to the microtubule associated protein tau. We studied epigenetic changes (DNA methylation levels) in peripheral blood from patients with PSP, FTD, and unaffected controls. Analysis of genome-wide methylation patterns revealed significant differentially methylated probes in patients versus unaffected controls. Remarkably, differentially methylated probes in PSP vs. controls were preferentially clustered within the 17q21.31 region, previously known to harbor the major genetic risk factor for PSP. We identified and replicated a dose-dependent effect of the risk-associated H1 haplotype on methylation levels within the region in independent datasets in blood and brain. These data reveal that the H1 haplotype increases risk for tauopathy via differential methylation, indicating a mediating role for methylation in dementia pathophysiology.
Current criteria for the clinical diagnosis of pathologically confirmed corticobasal degeneration (CBD) no longer reflect the expanding understanding of this disease and its clinicopathologic correlations. An international consortium of behavioral neurology, neuropsychology, and movement disorders specialists developed new criteria based on consensus and a systematic literature review. Clinical diagnoses (early or late) were identified for 267 nonoverlapping pathologically confirmed CBD cases from published reports and brain banks. Combined with consensus, 4 CBD phenotypes emerged: corticobasal syndrome (CBS), frontal behavioral-spatial syndrome (FBS), nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (naPPA), and progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSPS). Clinical features of CBD cases were extracted from descriptions of 209 brain bank and published patients, providing a comprehensive description of CBD and correcting common misconceptions. Clinical CBD phenotypes and features were combined to create 2 sets of criteria: more specific clinical research criteria for probable CBD and broader criteria for possible CBD that are more inclusive but have a higher chance to detect other tau-based pathologies. Probable CBD criteria require insidious onset and gradual progression for at least 1 year, age at onset ≥50 years, no similar family history or known tau mutations, and a clinical phenotype of probable CBS or either FBS or naPPA with at least 1 CBS feature. The possible CBD category uses similar criteria but has no restrictions on age or family history, allows tau mutations, permits less rigorous phenotype fulfillment, and includes a PSPS phenotype. Future validation and refinement of the proposed criteria are needed.