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1.  Neural substrates of socioemotional self-awareness in neurodegenerative disease 
Brain and Behavior  2014;4(2):201-214.
Neuroimaging studies examining neural substrates of impaired self-awareness in patients with neurodegenerative diseases have shown divergent results depending on the modality (cognitive, emotional, behavioral) of awareness. Evidence is accumulating to suggest that self-awareness arises from a combination of modality-specific and large-scale supramodal neural networks.
We investigated the structural substrates of patients' tendency to overestimate or underestimate their own capacity to demonstrate empathic concern for others. Subjects' level of empathic concern was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and subject-informant discrepancy scores were used to predict regional atrophy pattern, using voxel-based morphometry analysis. Of the 102 subjects, 83 were patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) or semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA); the other 19 were healthy older adults.
bvFTD and svPPA patients typically overestimated their level of empathic concern compared to controls, and overestimating one's empathic concern predicted damage to predominantly right-hemispheric anterior infero-lateral temporal regions, whereas underestimating one's empathic concern showed no neuroanatomical basis.
These findings suggest that overestimation and underestimation of one's capacity for empathic concern cannot be interpreted as varying degrees of the same phenomenon, but may arise from different pathophysiological processes. Damage to anterior infero-lateral temporal regions has been associated with semantic self-knowledge, emotion processing, and social perspective taking; neuropsychological functions partly associated with empathic concern itself. These findings support the hypothesis that—at least in the socioemotional domain—neural substrates of self-awareness are partly modality-specific.
PMCID: PMC3967536  PMID: 24683513
Affective perspective taking; dementia; empathy; infero-lateral temporal cortex; neurodegeneration; semantic self-knowledge; unawareness; voxel-based morphometry
2.  The Frontal-Anatomic Specificity of Design Fluency Repetitions and their Diagnostic Relevance for Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia 
On tests of design fluency, an examinee draws as many different designs as possible in a specified time limit while avoiding repetition. The neuroanatomical substrates and diagnostic group differences of design fluency repetition errors and total correct scores were examined in 110 individuals diagnosed with dementia, 53 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 37 neurologically healthy controls. The errors correlated significantly with volumes in the right and left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the right and left superior frontal gyrus, the right inferior frontal gyrus, and the right striatum, but did not correlate with volumes in any parietal or temporal lobe regions. Regression analyses indicated that the lateral OFC may be particularly crucial for preventing these errors, even after excluding patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) from the analysis. Total correct correlated more diffusely with volumes in the right and left frontal and parietal cortex, the right temporal cortex, and the right striatum and thalamus. Patients diagnosed with bvFTD made significantly more repetition errors than patients diagnosed with MCI, Alzheimer’s disease, semantic dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy or corticobasal syndrome. In contrast, total correct design scores did not differentiate the dementia patients. These results highlight the frontal-anatomic specificity of design fluency repetitions. In addition, the results indicate that the propensity to make these errors supports the diagnosis of bvFTD.
PMCID: PMC3620020  PMID: 22835330
Perseveration; Orbitofrontal; Neuropsychology; Executive Function; Dementia; Process Approach
3.  Cognitive Processing Speed in Older Adults: Relationship with White Matter Integrity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50425.
Cognitive processing slows with age. We sought to determine the importance of white matter integrity, assessed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), at influencing cognitive processing speed among normal older adults, assessed using a novel battery of computerized, non-verbal, choice reaction time tasks. We studied 131 cognitively normal adults aged 55–87 using a cross-sectional design. Each participant underwent our test battery, as well as MRI with DTI. We carried out cross-subject comparisons using tract-based spatial statistics. As expected, reaction time slowed significantly with age. In diffuse areas of frontal and parietal white matter, especially the anterior corpus callosum, fractional anisotropy values correlated negatively with reaction time. The genu and body of the corpus callosum, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus were among the areas most involved. This relationship was not explained by gray or white matter atrophy or by white matter lesion volume. In a statistical mediation analysis, loss of white matter integrity mediated the relationship between age and cognitive processing speed.
PMCID: PMC3503892  PMID: 23185621
4.  Let's Inhibit Our Excitement: The Relationships Between Stroop, Behavioral Disinhibition, and the Frontal Lobes 
Neuropsychology  2011;25(5):655-665.
The Stroop is a frequently used neuropsychological test, with poor performance typically interpreted as indicative of disinhibition and frontal lobe damage. This study tested those interpretations by examining relationships between Stroop performance, behavioral disinhibition, and frontal lobe atrophy.
Participants were 112 well-characterized patients with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, recruited through UCSF's Memory and Aging Center. Participants received comprehensive dementia evaluations including structural MRI, neuropsychological testing, and informant interviews. Freesurfer, a semi-automated parcellation program, was used to analyze 1.5T MRI scans. Behavioral disinhibition was measured using the Disinhibition scale of the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. The sample (n=112) mean age was 65.40 (SD=8.60) years, education was 16.64 (SD=2.54) years, and MMSE was 26.63 (SD=3.32). Hierarchical linear regressions were used for data analysis.
Controlling for age, MMSE, and Color Naming performance, Stroop performance was not significantly associated with behavioral disinhibition (β=0.01, ΔR2=0.01, p=0.29). Hierarchical regressions controlling for age, MMSE, Color Naming, intracranial volume, and temporal and parietal lobes, examined whether left hemisphere or right hemisphere regions predict Interference speed. Bilaterally, parietal lobes were the brain region in which atrophy best predicted poorer Stroop (left: β=0.0004, ΔR2=0.02, p=0.002; right: β=0.0004, ΔR2=0.02, p=0.002). Of frontal regions, only dorsolateral prefrontal cortex atrophy predicted poorer Stroop (β=0.001, ΔR2=0.01, p=0.03); left and right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) atrophy predicted better Stroop (left: β=−0.003, ΔR2=0.01, p=0.02; right: β=−0.004, ΔR2=0.01, p=0.02).
These findings suggest Stroop performance is a poor measure of behavioral disinhibition and frontal lobe atrophy even among a relatively high-risk population.
PMCID: PMC3158285  PMID: 21574716
Stroop; disinhibition; MRI; frontal; neuropsychological
5.  Double Dissociation in the Anatomy of Socioemotional Disinhibition and Executive Functioning in Dementia 
Neuropsychology  2011;25(2):249-259.
To determine if socioemotional disinhibition and executive dysfunction are related to dissociable patterns of brain atrophy in neurodegenerative disease. Previous studies have indicated that behavioral and cognitive dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease are linked to atrophy in different parts of the frontal lobe, but these prior studies did not establish that these relationships were specific, which would best be demonstrated by a double dissociation.
Subjects included 157 patients with neurodegenerative disease. A semi-automated parcellation program (Freesurfer) was used to generate regional cortical volumes from structural MRI scans. Regions of interest (ROIs) included anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). Socioemotional disinhibition was measured using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Principal component analysis including three tasks of executive function (EF; verbal fluency, Stroop Interference, modified Trails) was used to generate a single factor score to represent EF.
Partial correlations between ROIs, disinhibition, and EF were computed after controlling for total intracranial volume, MMSE, diagnosis, age, and education. Brain regions significantly correlated with disinhibition (ACC, OFC, IFG, and temporal lobes) and EF (MFG) were entered into separate hierarchical regressions to determine which brain regions predicted disinhibition and EF. OFC was the only brain region to significantly predict disinhibition and MFG significantly predicted executive functioning performance. A multivariate general linear model demonstrated a significant interaction between ROIs and cognitive-behavioral functions.
These results support a specific association between orbitofrontal areas and behavioral management as compared to dorsolateral areas and EF.
PMCID: PMC3075812  PMID: 21381829
Brain behaviour and relationships; prefrontal; emotion regulation; executive control
6.  Clinical, neuroimaging and neuropathological features of a new chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS family 
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.
PMCID: PMC3017222  PMID: 20562461
7.  Distinct Neuroanatomical Substrates and Cognitive Mechanisms of Figure Copy Performance in Alzheimer’s Disease and Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia 
Neuropsychologia  2010;49(1):43-48.
Figure copy is the most common method of visual spatial assessment in dementia evaluations, but performance on this test may be multifactorial. We examined the neuroanatomical substrates of figure copy performance in 46 patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and 48 patients with the behavioral variant of Frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD). A group of 94 neurologically healthy controls were studied for comparison. In AD, poor figure copy correlated significantly with right parietal cortex volumes but not with right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex volumes, whereas in bvFTD, figure copy performance correlated significantly with right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex volumes and there was only a trend with right parietal cortex volumes. The cognitive processes associated with figure copy performance also differed by diagnostic group such that figure copy was associated with spatial perception and attention in AD and with spatial planning and working memory in bvFTD. Spatial planning accounted for unique variance in the figure copy performance of bvFTD even after accounting for spatial perception, attention, and working memory. These results suggest that figure copy performance in AD and bvFTD is not anatomically-specific and is differentially impacted by bottom-up and top-down aspects of visual spatial processing. Alternative methods of visual spatial assessment for dementia evaluations are proposed.
PMCID: PMC3005024  PMID: 21029744
Visuospatial; Parietal; Prefrontal; Dementia; Neurodegenerative; Neuropsychological Assessment; Visuoconstruction
8.  Sporadic Corticobasal Syndrome due to FTLD-TDP 
Acta neuropathologica  2009;119(3):365-374.
Sporadic corticobasal syndrome (CBS) has been associated with diverse pathological substrates, but frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions (FTLD-TDP) has only been linked to CBS among progranulin mutation carriers. We report the clinical, neuropsychological, imaging, genetic, and neuropathological features of GS, a patient with sporadic corticobasal syndrome. Genetic testing revealed no mutations in the microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) or progranulin (PGRN) genes, but GS proved homozygous for the T allele of the rs5848 PGRN variant. Autopsy showed ubiquitin and TDP-43 pathology most similar to a pattern previously associated with PGRN mutation carriers. These findings confirm that FTLD-TDP should be included in the pathological differential diagnosis for sporadic CBS.
PMCID: PMC2832091  PMID: 19876635
corticobasal degeneration; TDP-43; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; progranulin
9.  Automated MRI-based classification of primary progressive aphasia variants 
NeuroImage  2009;47(4):1558-1567.
Degeneration of language regions in the dominant hemisphere can result in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a clinical syndrome characterized by progressive deficits in speech and/or language function. Recent studies have identified three variants of PPA: progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA), semantic dementia (SD) and logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA). Each variant is associated with characteristic linguistic features, distinct patterns of brain atrophy, and different likelihoods of particular underlying pathogenic processes, which makes correct differential diagnosis highly clinically relevant. Evaluation of linguistic behavior can be challenging for non-specialists, and neuroimaging findings in single subjects are often difficult to evaluate by eye. We investigated the utility of automated structural MR image analysis to discriminate PPA variants (N=86) from each other and from normal controls (N=115). T1 images were preprocessed to obtain modulated grey matter (GM) images. Feature selection was performed with principal components analysis (PCA) on GM images as well as images of lateralized atrophy. PC coefficients were classified with linear support vector machines, and a cross-validation scheme was used to obtain accuracy rates for generalization to novel cases. The overall mean accuracy in discriminating between pairs of groups was 92.2%. For one pair of groups, PNFA and SD, we also investigated the utility of including several linguistic variables as features. Models with both imaging and linguistic features performed better than models with only imaging or only linguistic features. These results suggest that automated methods could assist in the differential diagnosis of PPA variants, enabling therapies to be targeted to likely underlying etiologies.
PMCID: PMC2719687  PMID: 19501654

Results 1-9 (9)