Clinical research is best done when aligned with clinical care - that is, when the patient can be identified, recruited and, in many instances, researched in parallel with the delivery of clinical service. However, to achieve this effectively requires identification of the additional cost to the National Health Service clinical support services and the development of an appropriately skilled workforce. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Cancer Research Network demonstrated the value of dedicated research support in terms of the number of patients recruited into clinical trials. Building on this model, the NIHR in England funded the Dementias and Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network (DeNDRoN). DeNDRoN is now in its sixth year and has established a geographically widespread network of research support staff and research leadership managed by a central coordinating centre. Success can already be measured by a significant increase in the number of patients entering studies and the speed with which both commercial and noncommercial studies are completed. There are also early indications that the network will result in improved patient outcomes.
Neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease and atypical frontotemporal lobar degeneration are rare diseases characterized by ubiquitin-positive inclusions lacking transactive response DNA-binding protein-43 and tau. Recently, mutations in the fused in sarcoma gene have been shown to cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and fused in sarcoma-positive neuronal inclusions have subsequently been demonstrated in neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease and atypical frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions. Here we provide clinical, imaging, morphological findings, as well as genetic and biochemical data in 14 fused in sarcoma proteinopathy cases. In this cohort, the age of onset was variable but included cases of young-onset disease. Patients with atypical frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions all presented with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, while the clinical presentation in neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease was more heterogeneous, including cases with motor neuron disease and extrapyramidal syndromes. Neuroimaging revealed atrophy of the frontal and anterior temporal lobes as well as the caudate in the cases with atypical frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions, but was more heterogeneous in the cases with neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease, often being normal to visual inspection early on in the disease. The distribution and severity of fused in sarcoma-positive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, neuronal intranuclear inclusions and neurites were recorded and fused in sarcoma was biochemically analysed in both subgroups. Fused in sarcoma-positive neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions were found in the hippocampal granule cell layer in variable numbers. Cortical fused in sarcoma-positive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions were often ‘Pick body-like’ in neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease, and annular and crescent-shaped inclusions were seen in both conditions. Motor neurons contained variable numbers of compact, granular or skein-like cytoplasmic inclusions in all fused in sarcoma-positive cases in which brainstem and spinal cord motor neurons were available for study (five and four cases, respectively). No fused in sarcoma mutations were found in any cases. Biochemically, two major fused in sarcoma species were found and shown to be more insoluble in the atypical frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions subgroup compared with neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease. There is considerable overlap and also significant differences in fused in sarcoma-positive pathology between the two subgroups, suggesting they may represent a spectrum of the same disease. The co-existence of fused in sarcoma-positive inclusions in both motor neurons and extramotor cerebral structures is a characteristic finding in sporadic fused in sarcoma proteinopathies, indicating a multisystem disorder.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FUS; clinical presentation; neuropathology; biochemistry
An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been identified as an important cause of frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease; however, the phenotypic spectrum of this entity and its pathophysiologic basis have yet to be fully defined. Psychiatric features may be early and prominent, although a putative cortico-thalamo-cerebellar network has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the clinical phenotype. Differentiation of self from others is a core cognitive operation that could potentially link network disintegration with neuropsychiatric symptoms in C9ORF72-associated frontotemporal dementia.
We undertook a detailed behavioral analysis of self-other attribution in a 67-year-old male patient with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) due to the C9ORF72 expansion by using a novel paradigm requiring differentiation of the effects of self- and non-self-generated actions. The patient's performance was assessed in relation to two older male patients with bvFTD not attributable to the C9ORF72 expansion and four healthy older male subjects.
Compared with the healthy control group, the patient with the C9OFR72 mutation showed a deficit of self-other differentiation that was disproportionate to his otherwise relatively indolent clinical phenotype. The performance of the other patients with bvFTD was similar to that of healthy subjects.
We propose that impaired self-other differentiation is a candidate mechanism for neuropsychiatric decline in association with the C9ORF72 expansion. We offer this preliminary observation as a stimulus to further work.
A diagnosis of dementia is devastating at any age but diagnosis in younger patients presents a particular challenge. The differential diagnosis is broad as late presentation of metabolic disease is common and the burden of inherited dementia is higher in these patients than in patients with late-onset dementia. The presentation of the common degenerative diseases of late life, such as Alzheimer's disease, can be different when presenting in the fifth or sixth decade. Moreover, many of the young-onset dementias are treatable. The identification of causative genes for many of the inherited degenerative dementias has led to an understanding of the molecular pathology, which is also applicable to later-onset sporadic disease. This understanding offers the potential for future treatments to be tailored to a specific diagnosis of both young-onset and late-onset dementia.
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a neurodegenerative disorder with language impairment as the primary feature. Different subtypes have been described and the 3 best characterized are progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), semantic dementia (SD) and logopenic/phonological aphasia (LPA). Of these subtypes, LPA is most commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology. However, the features of PPA associated with AD have not been fully defined. Here we retrospectively identified 14 patients with PPA and either pathologically confirmed AD or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers consistent with AD. Analysis of neurological and neuropsychological features revealed that all patients had a syndrome of LPA with relatively nonfluent spontaneous speech, phonemic errors, and reduced digit span; most patients also had impaired verbal episodic memory. Analysis of the pattern of cortical thinning in these patients revealed left posterior superior temporal, inferior parietal, medial temporal, and posterior cingulate involvement and in patients with more severe disease, increasing involvement of left anterior temporal and frontal cortices and right hemisphere areas in the temporo-parietal junction, posterior cingulate, and medial temporal lobe. We propose that LPA may be a “unihemispheric” presentation of AD, and discuss this concept in relation to accumulating evidence concerning language dysfunction in AD.
Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Primary progressive aphasia; Logopenic aphasia; Progressive nonfluent aphasia; Alzheimer's disease
With the prospect of prevention trials for familial Alzheimer's disease on the horizon, understanding the natural history of the illness has never been so important. Earlier this year in The Lancet Neurology, Acosta-Baena and colleagues published the results of the largest and longest retrospective study of pre-dementia clinical stages in familial Alzheimer's disease to date. By reviewing serial neuropsychological assessments of individuals from a large Colombian kindred affected by the E280A mutation in the Presenilin 1 gene, they defined three stages of pre-dementia cognitive impairment. Using survival analyses, the authors estimated the median age at onset and rate of progression through each of these stages towards dementia and ultimately death. Their study provides valuable insights into the time course of cognitive decline associated with this mutation. Furthermore, the study highlights some of the challenges of defining pre-dementia clinical stages in familial Alzheimer's disease and the need for the field to develop a consistent terminology.
MAPT mutations are associated with disorders within the frontotemporal lobar degeneration spectrum. The usual presenting syndrome is behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, although some patients present with parkinsonism. In a number of these cases the dominant clinical features have been consistent with a progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) syndrome.
To describe a family with an autosomal dominant PSP syndrome with a novel L284R mutation in the MAPT gene.
A retrospective case review and genetic analysis of the MAPT gene. A literature review of PSP syndromes associated with mutations in the MAPT gene.
Multiple members of family DRC292 across different generations had a PSP syndrome with 1 member of the family being found to have a novel L284R mutation in the MAPT gene. Behavioural features were also prominent in most cases. A PSP syndrome is only a rare finding associated with MAPT mutations and many of these cases have atypical clinical features.
Although rare, MAPT mutations should be considered when there is an autosomal dominant family history of a PSP syndrome, particularly of young onset and with prominent behavioural features.
Frontotemporal dementia; Progressive supranuclear palsy; Tau
Prosody has been little studied in the primary progressive aphasias (PPAs), a group of neurodegenerative disorders presenting with progressive language impairment.
Here we conducted a systematic investigation of different dimensions of prosody processing (acoustic, linguistic and emotional) in a cohort of 19 patients with nonfluent PPA syndromes (11 with progressive nonfluent aphasia, PNFA; five with progressive logopenic/phonological aphasia, LPA; three with progranulin-associated aphasia, GRN-PPA) compared with a group of healthy older controls. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to identify neuroanatomical associations of prosodic functions.
Broadly comparable receptive prosodic deficits were exhibited by the PNFA, LPA and GRN-PPA subgroups, for acoustic, linguistic and affective dimensions of prosodic analysis. Discrimination of prosodic contours was significantly more impaired than discrimination of simple acoustic cues, and discrimination of intonation was significantly more impaired than discrimination of stress at phrasal level. Recognition of vocal emotions was more impaired than recognition of facial expressions for the PPA cohort, and recognition of certain emotions (in particular, disgust and fear) was relatively more impaired than others (sadness, surprise). VBM revealed atrophy associated with acoustic and linguistic prosody impairments in a distributed cortical network including areas likely to be involved in perceptual analysis of vocalisations (posterior temporal and inferior parietal cortices) and working memory (fronto-parietal circuitry). Grey matter associations of emotional prosody processing were identified for negative emotions (disgust, fear, sadness) in a broadly overlapping network of frontal, temporal, limbic and parietal areas.
Taken together, the findings show that receptive prosody is impaired in nonfluent PPA syndromes, and suggest a generic early perceptual deficit of prosodic signal analysis with additional relatively specific deficits (recognition of particular vocal emotions).
Primary progressive aphasia; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Logopenic aphasia; Progranulin; Prosody
An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been identified as a major cause of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration and motor neuron disease, including cases previously identified as linked to chromosome 9. Here we present a detailed retrospective clinical, neuroimaging and histopathological analysis of a C9ORF72 mutation case series in relation to other forms of genetically determined frontotemporal lobar degeneration ascertained at a specialist centre. Eighteen probands (19 cases in total) were identified, representing 35% of frontotemporal lobar degeneration cases with identified mutations, 36% of cases with clinical evidence of motor neuron disease and 7% of the entire cohort. Thirty-three per cent of these C9ORF72 cases had no identified relevant family history. Families showed wide variation in clinical onset (43–68 years) and duration (1.7–22 years). The most common presenting syndrome (comprising a half of cases) was behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, however, there was substantial clinical heterogeneity across the C9ORF72 mutation cohort. Sixty per cent of cases developed clinical features consistent with motor neuron disease during the period of follow-up. Anxiety and agitation and memory impairment were prominent features (between a half to two-thirds of cases), and dominant parietal dysfunction was also frequent. Affected individuals showed variable magnetic resonance imaging findings; however, relative to healthy controls, the group as a whole showed extensive thinning of frontal, temporal and parietal cortices, subcortical grey matter atrophy including thalamus and cerebellum and involvement of long intrahemispheric, commissural and corticospinal tracts. The neuroimaging profile of the C9ORF72 expansion was significantly more symmetrical than progranulin mutations with significantly less temporal lobe involvement than microtubule-associated protein tau mutations. Neuropathological examination in six cases with C9ORF72 mutation from the frontotemporal lobar degeneration series identified histomorphological features consistent with either type A or B TAR DNA-binding protein-43 deposition; however, p62-positive (in excess of TAR DNA-binding protein-43 positive) neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions in hippocampus and cerebellum were a consistent feature of these cases, in contrast to the similar frequency of p62 and TAR DNA-binding protein-43 deposition in 53 control cases with frontotemporal lobar degeneration–TAR DNA-binding protein. These findings corroborate the clinical importance of the C9ORF72 mutation in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, delineate phenotypic and neuropathological features that could help to guide genetic testing, and suggest hypotheses for elucidating the neurobiology of a culprit subcortical network.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; motor neuron disease; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroimaging; genetics
Relating clinical symptoms to neuroanatomical profiles of brain damage and ultimately to tissue pathology is a key challenge in the field of neurodegenerative disease and particularly relevant to the heterogeneous disorders that comprise the frontotemporal lobar degeneration spectrum. Here we present a retrospective analysis of clinical, neuropsychological and neuroimaging (volumetric and voxel-based morphometric) features in a pathologically ascertained cohort of 95 cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration classified according to contemporary neuropathological criteria. Forty-eight cases (51%) had TDP-43 pathology, 42 (44%) had tau pathology and five (5%) had fused-in-sarcoma pathology. Certain relatively specific clinicopathological associations were identified. Semantic dementia was predominantly associated with TDP-43 type C pathology; frontotemporal dementia and motoneuron disease with TDP-43 type B pathology; young-onset behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with FUS pathology; and the progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome with progressive supranuclear palsy pathology. Progressive non-fluent aphasia was most commonly associated with tau pathology. However, the most common clinical syndrome (behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia) was pathologically heterogeneous; while pathologically proven Pick's disease and corticobasal degeneration were clinically heterogeneous, and TDP-43 type A pathology was associated with similar clinical features in cases with and without progranulin mutations. Volumetric magnetic resonance imaging, voxel-based morphometry and cluster analyses of the pathological groups here suggested a neuroanatomical framework underpinning this clinical and pathological diversity. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration-associated pathologies segregated based on their cerebral atrophy profiles, according to the following scheme: asymmetric, relatively localized (predominantly temporal lobe) atrophy (TDP-43 type C); relatively symmetric, relatively localized (predominantly temporal lobe) atrophy (microtubule-associated protein tau mutations); strongly asymmetric, distributed atrophy (Pick's disease); relatively symmetric, predominantly extratemporal atrophy (corticobasal degeneration, fused-in-sarcoma pathology). TDP-43 type A pathology was associated with substantial individual variation; however, within this group progranulin mutations were associated with strongly asymmetric, distributed hemispheric atrophy. We interpret the findings in terms of emerging network models of neurodegenerative disease: the neuroanatomical specificity of particular frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathologies may depend on an interaction of disease-specific and network-specific factors.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; voxel-based morphometry; MRI; neural network
Despite recent work, the nosology of nonfluent primary progressive aphasia (PPA) remains unresolved.
We describe a clinical and neurolinguistic cross-sectional analysis of a cohort of 24 patients with nonfluent PPA. Patients were initially classified based on analysis of spontaneous speech into 4 groups: apraxia of speech (AOS)/agrammatism (10 patients); AOS/no agrammatism (4 patients); no AOS/agrammatism (3 patients); no AOS/no agrammatism (7 patients). These groups were further characterized using a detailed neurolinguistic and neuropsychological battery. Parkinsonism was present in 3/10 patients in the AOS/agrammatism group. All patients in the no AOS/agrammatism group had mutations in the progranulin (GRN) gene, while 5/7 cases in the no AOS/no agrammatism group had CSF findings compatible with Alzheimer disease.
The groups without AOS showed more severe neurolinguistic impairments for a given disease stage, and sentence comprehension, speech repetition, and reading were impaired in all groups. Prolonged word-finding pauses and impaired single word comprehension were salient features in the no AOS/agrammatism group. Additional impairments of executive function and praxis were present in both groups with agrammatism, and impaired episodic memory was a feature of the no AOS/no agrammatism group.
PPA with AOS is aligned with the syndrome previously designated progressive nonfluent aphasia; agrammatism may emerge as the syndrome evolves, or alternatively, the pure AOS group may be pathophysiologically distinct. PPA without AOS resembles the syndrome designated logopenic/phonologic aphasia; however, there is evidence for a distinct subsyndrome of GRN-associated aphasia. The findings provide a rationale for further longitudinal studies with pathologic correlation.
= Alzheimer disease;
= apraxia of speech;
= Clinical Dementia Rating–sum of boxes;
= logopenic progressive aphasia;
= Mini-Mental State Examination score;
= progressive nonfluent aphasia;
= primary progressive aphasia;
= semantic dementia.
The neurobiological basis of personality is poorly understood.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) frequently presents with complex
behavioural changes, and therefore potentially provides a disease model in
which to investigate brain substrates of personality.
To assess neuroanatomical correlates of personality change in a cohort of
individuals with FTLD using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).
Thirty consecutive individuals fulfilling consensus criteria for FTLD were
assessed. Each participant’s carer completed a Big Five Inventory (BFI)
questionnaire on five key personality traits; for each trait, a change score
was derived based on current compared with estimated premorbid
characteristics. All participants underwent volumetric brain magnetic
resonance imaging. A VBM analysis was implemented regressing change score for
each trait against regional grey matter volume across the FTLD group.
The FTLD group showed a significant decline in extraversion, agreeableness,
conscientiousness and openness and an increase in neuroticism. Change in
particular personality traits was associated with overlapping profiles of grey
matter loss in more anterior cortical areas and relative preservation of grey
matter in more posterior areas; the most robust neuroanatomical correlate was
identified for reduced conscientiousness in the region of the posterior
superior temporal gyrus.
Quantitative measures of personality change in FTLD can be correlated with
changes in regional grey matter. The neuroanatomical profiles for particular
personality traits overlap brain circuits previously implicated in aspects of
social cognition and suggest that dysfunction at the level of distributed
cortical networks underpins personality change in FTLD.
Tinnitus and hyperacusis are common symptoms of excessive auditory perception in the general population; however, their anatomical substrates and disease associations continue to be defined. Patients with semantic dementia (SemD) frequently report tinnitus and hyperacusis but the significance and basis for these symptoms have not been elucidated.
43 patients with a diagnosis of SemD attending a specialist cognitive disorders clinic were retrospectively studied. 14 patients (32% of the cohort) reported at least moderately severe chronic auditory symptoms: seven had tinnitus and a further seven had hyperacusis, and all had brain MRI while symptomatic. MRI data from SemD patients with and without auditory symptoms were compared using voxel based morphometry in order to identify neuroanatomical associations of tinnitus and hyperacusis.
Compared with SemD patients with no history of auditory symptoms, patients with tinnitus or hyperacusis had relative preservation of grey matter in the posterior superior temporal lobe and reduced grey matter in the orbitofrontal cortex and medial geniculate nucleus.
Tinnitus and hyperacusis may be a significant issue in SemD. Neuroanatomical evidence in SemD supports previous work implicating a distributed cortico-subcortical auditory and limbic network in the pathogenesis of these abnormal auditory percepts.
Neural network breakdown is a key issue in neurodegenerative disease, but the mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we investigated patterns of brain atrophy produced by defined molecular lesions in the two common forms of genetically mediated frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Nine patients with progranulin (GRN) mutations and eleven patients with microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) mutations had T1 MR brain imaging. Brain volumetry and grey and white matter voxel-based morphometry (VBM) were used to assess patterns of cross-sectional atrophy in the two groups. In a subset of patients with longitudinal MRI rates of whole-brain atrophy were derived using the brain-boundary-shift integral and a VBM-like analysis of voxel-wise longitudinal volume change was performed. The GRN mutation group showed asymmetrical atrophy whereas the MAPT group showed symmetrical atrophy. Brain volumes were smaller in the GRN group with a faster rate of whole-brain atrophy. VBM delineated a common anterior cingulate–prefrontal–insular pattern of atrophy in both disease groups. Additional disease-specific profiles of grey and white matter loss were identified on both cross-sectional and longitudinal imaging: GRN mutations were associated with asymmetrical inferior frontal, temporal and inferior parietal lobe grey matter atrophy and involvement of long intrahemispheric association white matter tracts, whereas MAPT mutations were associated with symmetrical anteromedial temporal lobe and orbitofrontal grey matter atrophy and fornix involvement. The findings suggest that the effects of GRN and MAPT mutations are expressed in partly overlapping but distinct anatomical networks that link specific molecular dysfunction with clinical phenotype.
Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Progranulin; Tau
Recently, two large genome wide association studies in Alzheimer disease (AD) have identified variants in three different genes (CLU, PICALM and CR1) as being associated with the risk of developing AD. The strongest association was reported for an intronic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in CLU.
To further characterize this association we have sequenced the coding region of this gene in a total of 495 AD cases and 330 healthy controls. A total of twenty-four variants were found in both cases and controls. For the changes found in more than one individual, the genotypic frequencies were compared between cases and controls. Coding variants were found in both groups (including a nonsense mutation in a healthy subject), indicating that the pathogenicity of variants found in this gene must be carefully evaluated. We found no common coding variant associated with disease. In order to determine if common variants at the CLU locus effect expression of nearby (cis) mRNA transcripts, an expression quantitative loci (eQTL) analysis was performed. No significant eQTL associations were observed for the SNPs previously associated with AD.
We conclude that common coding variability at this locus does not explain the association, and that there is no large effect of common genetic variability on expression in brain tissue. We surmise that the most likely mechanism underpinning the association is either small effects of genetic variability on resting gene expression, or effects on damage induced expression of the protein.
The primary progressive aphasias (PPA) are paradigmatic disorders of language network breakdown associated with focal degeneration of the left cerebral hemisphere. Here we addressed brain correlates of PPA in a detailed neuroanatomical analysis of the third canonical syndrome of PPA, logopenic/phonological aphasia (LPA), in relation to the more widely studied clinico-anatomical syndromes of semantic dementia (SD) and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA). 32 PPA patients (9 SD, 14 PNFA, 9 LPA) and 18 cognitively normal controls had volumetric brain MRI with regional volumetry, cortical thickness, grey and white matter voxel-based morphometry analyses. Five of nine patients with LPA had cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers consistent with Alzheimer (AD) pathology (AD-PPA) and 2/9 patients had progranulin (GRN) mutations (GRN-PPA). The LPA group had tissue loss in a widespread left hemisphere network. Compared with PNFA and SD, the LPA group had more extensive involvement of grey matter in posterior temporal and parietal cortices and long association white matter tracts. Overlapping but distinct networks were involved in the AD-PPA and GRN-PPA subgroups, with more anterior temporal lobe involvement in GRN-PPA. The importance of these findings is threefold: firstly, the clinico-anatomical entity of LPA has a profile of brain damage that is complementary to the network-based disorders of SD and PNFA; secondly, the core phonological processing deficit in LPA is likely to arise from temporo-parietal junction damage but disease spread occurs through the dorsal language network (and in GRN-PPA, also the ventral language network); and finally, GRN mutations provide a specific molecular substrate for language network dysfunction.
Primary progressive aphasia; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Logopenic aphasia
We assessed the significance and nature of delusions in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), an important cause of young-onset dementia with prominent neuropsychiatric features that remain incompletely characterised. The case notes of all patients meeting diagnostic criteria for FTLD attending a tertiary level cognitive disorders clinic over a three year period were retrospectively reviewed and eight patients with a history of delusions were identified. All patients underwent detailed clinical and neuropsychological evaluation and brain MRI. The diagnosis was confirmed pathologically in two cases. The estimated prevalence of delusions was 14 %. Delusions were an early, prominent and persistent feature. They were phenomenologically diverse; however paranoid and somatic delusions were prominent. Behavioural variant FTLD was the most frequently associated clinical subtype and cerebral atrophy was bilateral or predominantly right-sided in most cases. We conclude that delusions may be a clinical issue in FTLD, and this should be explored further in future work.
delusions; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Pick’s disease; dementia
The clinical and neuroanatomical correlates of specific apraxias in neurodegenerative disease are not well understood. Here we addressed this issue in progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), a canonical subtype of frontotemporal lobar degeneration that has been consistently associated with apraxia of speech (AOS) and in some cases orofacial apraxia, limb apraxia and/or parkinsonism. Sixteen patients with PNFA according to current consensus criteria were studied. Three patients had a corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and two a progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) syndrome. Speech, orofacial and limb praxis functions were assessed using the Apraxia Battery for Adults-2 and a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was conducted on brain MRI scans from the patient cohort in order to identify neuroanatomical correlates. All patients had AOS based on reduced diadochokinetic rate, 69% of cases had an abnormal orofacial apraxia score and 44% of cases (including the three CBS cases and one case with PSP) had an abnormal limb apraxia score. Severity of orofacial apraxia (but not AOS or limb apraxia) correlated with estimated clinical disease duration. The VBM analysis identified distinct neuroanatomical bases for each form of apraxia: the severity of AOS correlated with left posterior inferior frontal lobe atrophy; orofacial apraxia with left middle frontal, premotor and supplementary motor cortical atrophy; and limb apraxia with left inferior parietal lobe atrophy. Our findings show that apraxia of various kinds can be a clinical issue in PNFA and demonstrate that specific apraxias are clinically and anatomically dissociable within this population of patients.
Progressive nonfluent aphasia; Primary progressive aphasia; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration
We describe ten patients with a clinical diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) (pathologically confirmed in three cases) who developed abnormal laughter-like vocalisations in the context of progressive speech output impairment leading to mutism. Failure of speech output was accompanied by increasing frequency of the abnormal vocalisations until ultimately they constituted the patient's only extended utterance. The laughter-like vocalisations did not show contextual sensitivity but occurred as an automatic vocal output that replaced speech. Acoustic analysis of the vocalisations in two patients revealed abnormal motor features including variable note duration and inter-note interval, loss of temporal symmetry of laugh notes and loss of the normal decrescendo. Abnormal laughter-like vocalisations may be a hallmark of a subgroup in the PPA spectrum with impaired control and production of nonverbal vocal behaviour due to disruption of fronto-temporal networks mediating vocalisation.
Primary progressive aphasia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Laughter
Visual hallucinations (VH) are a cardinal neuropsychiatric symptom and often have important diagnostic implications. The interpretation of VH is influenced by the patient’s social and cultural milieu, but the impact of socio-cultural factors on the interpretation, presentation and detection of VH has been little studied. When patients exhibit VH and other neuropsychiatric phenomena, appropriate sensitivity to the role of cultural factors is an important determinant of the success of the medical consultation. We discuss this issue using three illustrative cases.
The terms ‘jargon aphasia’ and ‘jargon agraphia’ describe the production of incomprehensible language containing frequent phonological, semantic or neologistic errors in speech and writing, respectively. Here we describe two patients with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) who produced neologistic jargon either in speech or writing. We suggest that involvement of the posterior superior temporal–inferior parietal region may lead to a disconnection between stored lexical representations and language output pathways leading to aberrant activation of phonemes in neologistic jargon. Parietal lobe involvement is relatively unusual in PPA, perhaps accounting for the comparative rarity of jargon early in the course of these diseases.
Jargon aphasia; Primary progressive aphasia; Dementia
A 55-year-old woman was followed over a 13-year period as part of a longitudinal study of people at risk for familial dementia. She was a member of a family with an autosomal dominant familial dementia that fulfilled consensus criteria for frontotemporal lobar degeneration. She was initially asymptomatic but developed progressive behavioral and cognitive decline characterized by early apathy, impaired emotion recognition, mixed aphasia and parietal lobe dysfunction.
Clinical assessments, neuropsychometry, volumetric brain MRI, genetic mutation screening.
Progranulin-associated frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Explanation of the patient's condition and genetic counseling for her family.
dementia; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; progressive aphasia
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U) but the distinguishing clinical and anatomical features of this subgroup remain unclear. In a large UK cohort we found five different frameshift and premature termination mutations likely to be causative of FTLD in 25 affected family members. A previously described 4-bp insertion mutation in GRN exon 2 comprised the majority of cases in our cohort (20/25), with four novel mutations being identified in the other five affected members. Additional novel missense changes were discovered, of uncertain pathogenicity, but deletion of the entire gene was not detected. The patient collection was investigated by a single tertiary referral centre and is enriched for familial early onset FTLD with a high proportion of patients undergoing neuropsychological testing, MRI and eventual neuropathological diagnosis. Age at onset was variable, but four mutation carriers presented in their 40s and when analysed as a group, the mean age at onset of disease in GRN mutation carriers was later than tau gene (MAPT) mutation carriers and duration of disease was shorter when compared with both MAPTand FTLD-U without mutation. The most common clinical presentation seen in GRN mutation carriers was behavioural variant FTLD with apathy as the dominant feature. However, many patients had language output impairment that was either a progressive non-fluent aphasia or decreased speech output consistent with a dynamic aphasia. Neurological and neuropsychological examination also suggests that parietal lobe dysfunction is a characteristic feature of GRN mutation and differentiates this group from other patients with FTLD. MR imaging showed evidence of strikingly asymmetrical atrophy with the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes all affected. Both right- and left-sided predominant atrophy was seen even within the same family. As a group, the GRN carriers showed more asymmetry than in other FTLD groups. All pathologically investigated cases showed extensive type 3 TDP-43-positive pathology, including frequent neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, dystrophic neurites in both grey and white matter and also neuronal intranuclear inclusions. Finally, we confirmed a modifying effect of APOE-E4 genotype on clinical phenotype with a later onset in the GRN carriers suggesting that this gene has distinct phenotypic effects in different neurodegenerative diseases.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; progressive aphasia
The patient with word-finding difficulty presents a common and challenging clinical problem. The complaint of ‘word-finding difficulty’ covers a wide range of clinical phenomena and may signify any of a number of distinct pathophysiological processes. Although it occurs in a variety of clinical contexts, word-finding difficulty generally presents a diagnostic conundrum when it occurs as a leading or apparently isolated symptom, most often as the harbinger of degenerative disease: the progressive aphasias. Recent advances in the neurobiology of the focal, language-based dementias have transformed our understanding of these processes and the ways in which they breakdown in different diseases, but translation of this knowledge to the bedside is far from straightforward. Speech and language disturbances in the dementias present unique diagnostic and conceptual problems that are not fully captured by classical models derived from the study of vascular and other acute focal brain lesions. This has led to a reformulation of our understanding of how language is organized in the brain. In this review we seek to provide the clinical neurologist with a practical and theoretical bridge between the patient presenting with word-finding difficulty in the clinic and the evidence of the brain sciences. We delineate key illustrative speech and language syndromes in the degenerative dementias, compare these syndromes with the syndromes of acute brain damage, and indicate how the clinical syndromes relate to emerging neurolinguistic, neuroanatomical and neurobiological insights. We propose a conceptual framework for the analysis of word-finding difficulty, in order both better to define the patient's complaint and its differential diagnosis for the clinician and to identify unresolved issues as a stimulus to future work.
aphasia; progressive aphasia; anomia; dementia; speech and language
The order and magnitude of pathologic processes in Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood, partly because the disease develops over many years. Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease has a predictable age at onset and provides an opportunity to determine the sequence and magnitude of pathologic changes that culminate in symptomatic disease.
In this prospective, longitudinal study, we analyzed data from 128 participants who underwent baseline clinical and cognitive assessments, brain imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood tests. We used the participant’s age at baseline assessment and the parent’s age at the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease to calculate the estimated years from expected symptom onset (age of the participant minus parent’s age at symptom onset). We conducted cross-sectional analyses of baseline data in relation to estimated years from expected symptom onset in order to determine the relative order and magnitude of pathophysiological changes.
Concentrations of amyloid-beta (Aβ)42 in the CSF appeared to decline 25 years before expected symptom onset. Aβ deposition, as measured by positron-emission tomography with the use of Pittsburgh compound B, was detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Increased concentrations of tau protein in the CSF and an increase in brain atrophy were detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Cerebral hypometabolism and impaired episodic memory were observed 10 years before expected symptom onset. Global cognitive impairment, as measured by the Mini–Mental State Examination and the Clinical Dementia Rating scale, was detected 5 years before expected symptom onset, and patients met diagnostic criteria for dementia at an average of 3 years after expected symptom onset.
We found that autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease was associated with a series of pathophysiological changes over decades in CSF biochemical markers of Alzheimer’s disease, brain amyloid deposition, and brain metabolism as well as progressive cognitive impairment. Our results require confirmation with the use of longitudinal data and may not apply to patients with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging and others; DIAN ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00869817.)