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
Cross-sectional studies of normal aging indicate an association between memory and hippocampal volume, and between executive functioning and subcortical-frontal circuits. Much less is known, however, about the relationship between longitudinal MRI changes and cognitive decline. The authors hypothesized that longitudinal change in memory would be best predicted by change in hippocampal volumes, whereas change in executive functioning would be best predicted by cortical atrophy and progression of MRI markers of cerebrovascular disease. For this study, 50 healthy elderly subjects underwent structural MRI and cognitive testing at baseline and again at follow-up, with a mean follow-up interval of 45 months. Volumetric MRI measures were hippocampus, cortical gray matter, white matter signal hyperintensity (WMSH), and lacunae. Neuropsychological measures were psychometrically robust composite scores of episodic memory (MEM) and executive functioning (EXEC). Hierarchical multiple regression indicated that a decrease in hippocampus was associated with a decline in MEM, whereas decreased cortical gray matter and increased WMSH were independently associated with a decline in EXEC. Results suggest that in normal aging, cognitive functioning declines as cortical gray matter and hippocampus decrease, and WMSH increases. The association between WMSH and EXEC further highlights the cognitive sequealae associated with cerebrovascular disease in normal elderly.
normal aging; memory; executive function; hippocampal volumes; white matter signal hyperintensity
The role of inflammation in cognitive decline has generated considerable interest, although few longitudinal evaluations have been conducted. A review of the literature yields mixed findings, but suggests that inflammatory dysregulation is evident and may be related to clinical outcomes. The directionality, magnitude, and progression of these associations remain unclear. Future studies employing multiple time points of inflammatory data along with Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers are critical for explication of longitudinal inflammation in cognitive decline.
The medial temporal lobe is implicated as a key brain region involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and consequent memory loss. Tau tangle aggregation in this region may develop concurrently with cortical Aβ deposition in preclinical AD, but the pathological relationship between tau and Aβ remains unclear. We used task-free fMRI with a focus on the medical temporal lobe, together with Aβ PET imaging, in cognitively normal elderly human participants. We found that cortical Aβ load was related to disrupted intrinsic functional connectivity of the perirhinal cortex, which is typically the first brain region affected by tauopathies in AD. There was no concurrent association of cortical Aβ load with cognitive performance or brain atrophy. These findings suggest that dysfunction in the medial temporal lobe may represent a very early sign of preclinical AD and may predict future memory loss.
Alzheimer's disease; amyloid; hippocampus; perirhinal cortex
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
Recently, the Chinese Verbal Learning Test (ChVLT) was developed to assess episodic memory in Chinese speakers. The goal of this analysis was to determine whether memory consolidation as measured by the ChVLT was specifically associated with hippocampal volume in patients with cognitive impairment.
We administered the ChVLT to 22 Chinese-speaking patients with mild cognitive impairment and 9 patients with dementia and obtained hippocampal and cortical volumes from T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging.
Linear regression revealed that hippocampal volume explained 9.9% of the variance in delayed memory (P = .018) after controlling for the effects of age, education, immediate recall after the last learning trial, overall level of cognitive impairment, and volumes of other cortical regions.
These results indicate that the ChVLT is specifically correlated with hippocampal volume, supporting its utility for detecting hippocampal disease and monitoring hippocampal state over time.
mild cognitive impairment; Alzheimer’s disease; memory; hippocampus; Chinese
Behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia is characterized by an increase in primary reward-seeking behaviours, including pursuit of food, drug, and sexual rewards. Perry et al. reveal that increased reward-seeking correlates with lower volume in the right ventral putamen and pallidum, which are known reward circuit structures.
Behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia is characterized by abnormal responses to primary reward stimuli such as food, sex and intoxicants, suggesting abnormal functioning of brain circuitry mediating reward processing. The goal of this analysis was to determine whether abnormalities in reward-seeking behaviour in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia are correlated with atrophy in regions known to mediate reward processing. Review of case histories in 103 patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia identified overeating or increased sweet food preference in 80 (78%), new or increased alcohol or drug use in 27 (26%), and hypersexuality in 17 (17%). For each patient, a primary reward-seeking score of 0–3 was created with 1 point given for each target behaviour (increased seeking of food, drugs, or sex). Voxel-based morphometry performed in 91 patients with available imaging revealed that right ventral putamen and pallidum atrophy correlated with higher reward-seeking scores. Each of the reward-related behaviours involved partially overlapping right hemisphere reward circuit regions including putamen, globus pallidus, insula and thalamus. These findings indicate that in some patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, low volume of subcortical reward-related structures is associated with increased pursuit of primary rewards, which may be a product of increased thalamocortical feedback.
frontotemporal dementia; reward processing; hypersexuality; overeating; alcohol
Background and Purpose
In vivo MRI and postmortem neuropathological studies have demonstrated elevated iron concentration and atrophy within the striatum of patients with Huntington disease (HD), implicating neuronal loss and iron accumulation in the pathogenesis of this neurodegenerative disorder. We used 7T MRI to determine whether quantitative phase, a putative marker of these endpoints, is altered in subjects with premotor HD.
Materials and Methods
Local field shift (LFS), calculated from 7T MR phase images, was quantified in 13 subjects with premotor HD and 13 age- and gender-matched controls. All participants underwent 3T and 7T MRI, including volumetric 3T T1 and 7T gradient-recalled echo sequences. LFS maps were created from 7T phase data and registered to caudate ROIs automatically parcellated from the 3T T1 images. HD-specific neurocognitive assessment was also performed and compared to LFS.
Subjects with premotor HD had smaller caudate nuclear volume and higher LFS than controls. A significant correlation between these measurements was not detected, and prediction accuracy for disease state improved with inclusion of both variables. A positive correlation between LFS and genetic disease burden was also found, and there was a trend towards significant correlations between LFS and neurocognitive tests of working memory and executive function.
Subjects with premotor HD exhibit differences in 7T MRI phase within the caudate nuclei that correlate with genetic disease burden and trend with neurocognitive assessments. Ultra-high field MRI of quantitative phase may be a useful marker for monitoring neurodegeneration in premanifest HD.
The hippocampus and frontal lobes both contribute to episodic memory performance. In the present study, the authors evaluated the relative contributions of hippocampus, frontal lobes, anterior temporal cortex, and posterior cortex to memory performance in neurodegenerative patients and normal older controls. Subjects (n = 42) were studied with structural MRI and a memory paradigm that measured delayed recall, semantic clustering during recall, recognition discriminability, and recognition response bias. Data were analyzed with multiple regression. Consistent with the authors’ hypotheses, hippocampal volumes were the best predictor of delayed recall and recognition discriminability, whereas frontal volumes were the best predictor of semantic clustering and response bias. Smaller frontal volumes were associated with less semantic clustering during recall and a more liberal response bias. Results indicate that hippocampal and frontal contributions to episodic memory can be dissociated, with the hippocampus more important for memory accuracy, and frontal structures more important for strategic processing and decision making.
memory; hippocampus; frontal lobes; organization; response bias
Heritability of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is estimated at 74% and genetic contributors have been widely sought. The ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E (APOE) remains the strongest common risk factor for AD, with numerous other common variants contributing only modest risk for disease. Variability in clinical presentation of AD, which is typically amnestic (AmnAD) but can less commonly involve visuospatial, language and/or dysexecutive syndromes (atypical or AtAD), further complicates genetic analyses. Taking a multi-locus approach may increase the ability to identify individuals at highest risk for any AD syndrome. In this study, we sought to develop and investigate the utility of a multi-variant genetic risk assessment on a cohort of phenotypically heterogeneous patients with sporadic AD clinical diagnoses.
We genotyped 75 variants in our cohort and, using a two-staged study design, we developed a 17-marker AD risk score in a Discovery cohort (n = 59 cases, n = 133 controls) then assessed its utility in a second Validation cohort (n = 126 cases, n = 150 controls). We also performed a data-driven decision tree analysis to identify genetic and/or demographic criteria that are most useful for accurately differentiating all AD cases from controls.
We confirmed APOE ε4 as a strong risk factor for AD. A 17-marker risk panel predicted AD significantly better than APOE genotype alone (P < 0.00001) in the Discovery cohort, but not in the Validation cohort. In decision tree analyses, we found that APOE best differentiated cases from controls only in AmnAD but not AtAD. In AtAD, HFE SNP rs1799945 was the strongest predictor of disease; variation in HFE has previously been implicated in AD risk in non-ε4 carriers.
Our study suggests that APOE ε4 remains the best predictor of broad AD risk when compared to multiple other genetic factors with modest effects, that phenotypic heterogeneity in broad AD can complicate simple polygenic risk modeling, and supports the association between HFE and AD risk in individuals without APOE ε4.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-015-0304-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Alzheimer’s disease; Genetics; Decision tree analysis
We investigated the viability of psychometrically robust executive function measures as markers for premanifest Huntington’s disease (HD).
Fifteen premanifest HD subjects and 42 controls were compared on the NIH EXAMINER executive function battery. This battery yields an overall Executive Composite score, plus Working Memory, Cognitive Control, and Fluency Scores that are measured on psychometrically matched scales. The scores were correlated with two disease markers, disease burden and striatal volumes, in the premanifest HD subjects.
The premanifest HD subjects scored significantly lower on the Working Memory Score. The Executive Composite positively correlated with striatal volumes, and Working Memory Score negatively correlated with disease burden. The Cognitive Control and Fluency Scores did not differ between the groups or correlate significantly with the disease markers.
The NIH EXAMINER Executive Composite and Working Memory Score are sensitive markers of cognitive dysfunction, striatal volume, and disease burden in premanifest HD.
Huntington’s disease; Executive function; Working memory; Striatal volume; Disease burden
To assess consolidation in amnestic mild cognitive (aMCI) impairment, controlling for differences in initial learning and using a protracted delay period for recall.
Fifteen individuals with MCI were compared to fifteen healthy older adult controls on a story learning task. Subjects were trained to criteria to equalize initial learning across subjects. Recall was tested at both the 30-minute typically used delay and a 1-week delay used to target consolidation.
Using repeated measures ANOVAs adjusted for age, we found group × time point interactions across the entire task between the final trial and 30-minute delay, and again between the 30-minute and 1-week delay periods, with MCI having greater declines in recall as compared to controls. Significant group main effects were also found, with MCI recalling less than controls.
Consolidation was impaired in aMCI as compared to controls. Our findings indicate that MCI-related performance typically measured at 30 minutes underestimates MCI-associated memory deficits. This is the first study to isolate consolidation by controlling for initial learning differences and using a protracted delay period to target consolidation in an MCI sample.
consolidation; episodic learning; amnestic mild cognitive impairment; memory; cognitive aging
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
Identifying genetic variation associated with brain structures in aging may elucidate new biologic mechanisms underlying resilience to cognitive decline. We investigated whether carrying one copy of the protective haplotype “KL-VS” in longevity gene KLOTHO (KL) is associated with greater gray matter volume in healthy human aging compared to carrying no copies.
We performed unbiased whole-brain analysis in cognitively normal older adults from two independent cohorts to assess the relationship between KL-VS and gray matter volume using voxel-based morphometry.
We found that KL-VS heterozygosity was associated with greater volume in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC). Because rDLPFC is important for executive function, we analyzed working memory and processing speed in individuals. KL-VS heterozygosity was associated with enhanced executive function. Larger rDLPFC volume correlated with better executive function across the lifespan examined. Statistical analysis suggested that volume partially mediates the effect of genotype on cognition.
These results suggest that variation in KL is associated with bigger brain volume and better function.
“Resting-state” or task-free fMRI can assess intrinsic connectivity network (ICN) integrity in health and disease, suggesting a potential for use of these methods as disease-monitoring biomarkers. Numerous analytical options are available, including model-driven ROI-based correlation analysis and model-free, independent component analysis (ICA). High test-retest reliability will be a necessary feature of a successful ICN biomarker, yet available reliability data remains limited. Here, we examined ICN fMRI test-retest reliability in 24 healthy older subjects scanned roughly one year apart. We focused on the salience network, a disease-relevant ICN not previously subjected to reliability analysis. Most ICN analytical methods proved reliable (intraclass coefficients > 0.4) and could be further improved by wavelet analysis. Seed-based ROI correlation analysis showed high map-wise reliability, whereas graph theoretical measures and temporal concatenation group ICA produced the most reliable individual unit-wise outcomes. Including global signal regression in ROI-based correlation analyses reduced reliability. Our study provides a direct comparison between the most commonly used ICN fMRI methods and potential guidelines for measuring intrinsic connectivity in aging control and patient populations over time.
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
The aims of this study were to examine executive dysfunction using an antisaccade (AS) task in normal elderly (NE) and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer disease (AD) as well as to evaluate the relationship between AS performance and cortical thinning within AD-associated regions.
We recorded eye movements in 182 subjects (NE: 118; MCI: 36; AD: 28) during an AS task. We also performed neuropsychological measures of executive function for comparison. Brain MRI scans were collected on most subjects, and cortical thickness was determined in 9 regions known to exhibit atrophy in AD dementia (“AD signature”). We investigated the relationships between AS and neuropsychological performance, as well as possible correlations between AS performance and cortical thickness.
AS performance in MCI resembled that in NE; subjects with AD were impaired relative to both MCI and NE. In all subjects, AS performance correlated with neuropsychological measures of executive function, even after controlling for disease severity. In the subjects with MCI but not in NE, cortical thickness in frontoparietal AD signature regions correlated with AS performance.
The AS task is a useful measure of executive function across the AD spectrum. In MCI, AS performance may reflect disease burden within cortical brain regions involved in oculomotor control; however, AS impairments in NE may have etiologies other than incipient AD.
The neural organization of semantic memory remains much debated. A ‘distributed-only’ view contends that semantic knowledge is represented within spatially distant, modality-selective primary and association cortices. Observations in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia have inspired an alternative model featuring the anterior temporal lobe as an amodal hub that supports semantic knowledge by linking distributed modality-selective regions. Direct evidence has been lacking, however, to support intrinsic functional interactions between an anterior temporal lobe hub and upstream sensory regions in humans. Here, we examined the neural networks supporting semantic knowledge by performing a multimodal brain imaging study in healthy subjects and patients with semantic variant primary progressive aphasia. In healthy subjects, the anterior temporal lobe showed intrinsic connectivity to an array of modality-selective primary and association cortices. Patients showed focal anterior temporal lobe degeneration but also reduced physiological integrity throughout distributed modality-selective regions connected with the anterior temporal lobe in healthy controls. Physiological deficits outside the anterior temporal lobe correlated with scores on semantic tasks and with anterior temporal subregion atrophy, following domain-specific and connectivity-based predictions. The findings provide a neurophysiological basis for the theory that semantic processing is orchestrated through interactions between a critical anterior temporal lobe hub and modality-selective processing nodes.
anterior temporal lobe; semantic dementia; cognition; semantics; functional neuroimaging
Aging is the primary risk factor for cognitive decline, an emerging health threat to aging societies worldwide. Whether anti-aging factors such as klotho can counteract cognitive decline is unknown. We show that a life span-extending variant of the human KLOTHO gene, KL-VS, is associated with enhanced cognition in heterozygous carriers. Because this allele increased klotho levels in serum, we analyzed transgenic mice with systemic overexpression of klotho. They performed better than controls in multiple tests of learning and memory. Elevating klotho in mice also enhanced long-term potentiation, a form of synaptic plasticity, and enriched synaptic GluN2B, an NMDA receptor subunit with key functions in learning and memory. Blockade of GluN2B abolished klotho-mediated effects. Surprisingly, klotho effects were evident also in young mice and did not correlate with age in humans, suggesting independence from the aging process. Augmenting klotho or its effects may enhance cognition at different life stages and counteract cognitive decline.
The contribution of inflammation to deleterious aging outcomes is increasingly recognized; however, little is known about the complex relationship between interleukin-6 (IL-6) and brain structure, or how this association might change with increasing age. We examined the association between IL-6, white matter integrity, and cognition in 151 community dwelling older adults, and tested whether age moderated these associations. Blood levels of IL-6 and vascular risk (e.g., homocysteine), as well as health history information, were collected. Processing speed assessments were administered to assess cognitive functioning, and we employed tract-based spatial statistics to examine whole brain white matter and regions of interest. Given the association between inflammation, vascular risk, and corpus callosum (CC) integrity, fractional anisotropy (FA) of the genu, body, and splenium represented our primary dependent variables. Whole brain analysis revealed an inverse association between IL-6 and CC fractional anisotropy. Subsequent ROI linear regression and ridge regression analyses indicated that the magnitude of this effect increased with age; thus, older individuals with higher IL-6 levels displayed lower white matter integrity. Finally, higher IL-6 levels were related to worse processing speed; this association was moderated by age, and was not fully accounted for by CC volume. This study highlights that at older ages, the association between higher IL-6 levels and lower white matter integrity is more pronounced; furthermore, it underscores the important, albeit burgeoning role of inflammatory processes in cognitive aging trajectories.
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.
To investigate how acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (ChEI) treatment impacts brain function in Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Twelve patients with PD and either dementia or mild cognitive impairment underwent task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after three months of ChEI treatment and were compared to 15 age and sex matched neurologically healthy controls. Regional spontaneous brain activity was measured using the fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuations.
At baseline, patients showed reduced spontaneous brain activity in regions important for motor control (e.g., caudate, supplementary motor area, precentral gyrus, thalamus), attention and executive functions (e.g., lateral prefrontal cortex), and episodic memory (e.g., precuneus, angular gyrus, hippocampus). After treatment, the patients showed a similar but less extensive pattern of reduced spontaneous brain activity relative to controls. Spontaneous brain activity deficits in the left premotor cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, and supplementary motor area were restored such that the activity was increased post-treatment compared to baseline and was no longer different from controls. Treatment-related increases in left premotor and inferior frontal cortex spontaneous brain activity correlated with parallel reaction time improvement on a test of controlled attention.
PD patients with cognitive impairment show numerous regions of decreased spontaneous brain function compared to controls, and rivastigmine is associated with performance-related normalization in left frontal cortex function.
acetylcholine (D02.092.211.111); magnetic resonance imaging functional (E01.370.350.825.500); attention (F02.830.104.214); Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors (D27.505.519.389.275) executive control (F02.463.217)
Executive functions refer to a constellation of higher-level cognitive abilities that enable goal-oriented behavior. The NIH EXAMINER battery was designed to assess executive functions comprehensively and efficiently. Performance can be summarized by a single score, the ‘Executive Composite,’ which combines measures of inhibition, set-shifting, fluency, and working memory. We evaluated the ecological validity of the Executive Composite in a sample of 225 mixed neurological patients and controls using the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), an informant-based measure of real-world executive behavior. In addition, we investigated the neuroanatomical correlates of the Executive Composite using voxel-based morphometry in a sample of 37 participants diagnosed with dementia, mild cognitive impairment, or as neurologically healthy. The Executive Composite accounted for 28% of the variance in FrSBe scores beyond age. Even after including two widely-used executive function tests (Trails B and Stroop) as covariates, the Executive Composite remained a significant predictor of real-world behavior. Anatomically, poorer scores on the Executive Composite were associated with smaller right and left dorsolateral prefrontal volumes, brain regions critical for good executive control. Taken together, these results suggest that the Executive Composite measures important aspects of executive function not captured by standard measures and reflects the integrity of frontal systems.
executive function; magnetic resonance imaging; validity of results; neurological disorders; prefrontal cortex; neurodegenerative disorders
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.
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.