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1.  A Pilot Study of Hippocampal Volume and N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) as Response Biomarkers in Riluzole-Treated Patients with GAD 
Anxiolytic benefit following chronic treatment with the glutamate modulating agent riluzole in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was previously associated with differential changes in hippocampal NAA concentrations. Here, we investigated the association between hippocampal volume and hippocampal NAA in the context of riluzole response in GAD. Eighteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. GAD patients who completed all interventions were classified as remitters (n = 7) or non-remitters (n = 6), based on final Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) scores ≤ 7. At baseline, GAD patients had a significant reduction in total hippocampal volume compared to healthy subjects (F(1,21) = 6.55, p = 0.02). This reduction was most pronounced in the remitters, compared to non-remitters and healthy subjects. Delta (final – baseline) hippocampal volume was positively correlated with delta NAA in GAD. This positive association was highly significant in the right hippocampus in GAD [r = 0.81, p = 0.002], with no significant association in healthy subjects [Fisher r-to-z p = 0.017]. Across all GAD patients, delta hippocampal volume was positively associated with improvement in HAM-A (rspearman = 0.62, p = 0.03). These preliminary findings support hippocampal NAA and volume as neural biomarkers substantially associated with therapeutic response to a glutamatergic drug.
doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2012.05.009
PMCID: PMC3473175  PMID: 22739126
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; hippocampal volume; magnetic resonance spectroscopy
2.  Increased Amygdalar and Hippocampal Volumes in Young Adults with Social Anxiety 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88523.
Background
Functional neuroimaging studies have consistently shown abnormal limbic activation patterns in socially anxious individuals, but structural data on the amygdala and hippocampus of these patients are scarce. This study explored the existence of structural differences in the whole brain, amygdala, and hippocampus of subjects with clinical and subthreshold social anxiety compared to healthy controls. We hypothesized that there would be volumetric differences across groups, without predicting their direction (i.e. enlargement or reduction).
Methods
Subjects classified as having social anxiety disorder (n = 12), subthreshold social anxiety (n = 12) and healthy controls (n = 14) underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging scans. The amygdala and hippocampus were defined a priori as regions of interest and volumes were calculated by manual tracing. Whole brain volume was calculated using voxel-based morphometry.
Results
The bilateral amygdala and left hippocampus were enlarged in socially anxious individuals relative to controls. The volume of the right hippocampus was enlarged in subthreshold social anxiety participants relative to controls. No differences were found across groups in respect to total brain volume.
Conclusions
Our results show amygdalar and hippocampal volume alterations in social anxiety, possibly associated with symptom severity. The time course of such alterations and the cellular and molecular bases of limbic plasticity in social anxiety should be further investigated.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088523
PMCID: PMC3921212  PMID: 24523911
3.  Memory Networks in Tinnitus: A Functional Brain Image Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87839.
Tinnitus is characterized by the perception of sound in the absence of an external auditory stimulus. The network connectivity of auditory and non-auditory brain structures associated with emotion, memory and attention are functionally altered in debilitating tinnitus. Current studies suggest that tinnitus results from neuroplastic changes in the frontal and limbic temporal regions. The objective of this study was to use Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) to evaluate changes in the cerebral blood flow in tinnitus patients with normal hearing compared with healthy controls. Methods: Twenty tinnitus patients with normal hearing and 17 healthy controls, matched for sex, age and years of education, were subjected to Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography using the radiotracer ethylenedicysteine diethyl ester, labeled with Technetium 99 m (99 mTc-ECD SPECT). The severity of tinnitus was assessed using the “Tinnitus Handicap Inventory” (THI). The images were processed and analyzed using “Statistical Parametric Mapping” (SPM8). Results: A significant increase in cerebral perfusion in the left parahippocampal gyrus (pFWE <0.05) was observed in patients with tinnitus compared with healthy controls. The average total THI score was 50.8+18.24, classified as moderate tinnitus. Conclusion: It was possible to identify significant changes in the limbic system of the brain perfusion in tinnitus patients with normal hearing, suggesting that central mechanisms, not specific to the auditory pathway, are involved in the pathophysiology of symptoms, even in the absence of clinically diagnosed peripheral changes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087839
PMCID: PMC3916334  PMID: 24516567
4.  PRODH Polymorphisms, Cortical Volumes and Thickness in Schizophrenia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87686.
Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder with high heritability. Several lines of evidence indicate that the PRODH gene may be related to the disorder. Therefore, our study investigates the effects of 12 polymorphisms of PRODH on schizophrenia and its phenotypes. To further evaluate the roles of the associated variants in the disorder, we have conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess cortical volumes and thicknesses. A total of 192 patients were evaluated using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Calgary Depression Scale, Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) and Clinical Global Impression (CGI) instruments. The study included 179 controls paired by age and gender. The samples were genotyped using the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP)-PCR and Sanger sequencing methods. A sample of 138 patients and 34 healthy controls underwent MRI scans. One polymorphism was associated with schizophrenia (rs2904552), with the G-allele more frequent in patients than in controls. This polymorphism is likely functional, as predicted by PolyPhen and SIFT, but it was not associated with brain morphology in our study. In summary, we report a functional PRODH variant associated with schizophrenia that may have a neurochemical impact, altering brain function, but is not responsible for the cortical reductions found in the disorder.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087686
PMCID: PMC3912045  PMID: 24498354
5.  The Impact of Healthy Parenting As a Protective Factor for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adulthood: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87117.
Background
Early life social adversity can influence stress response mechanisms and is associated with anxious behaviour and reductions in callosal area later in life.
Objective
To evaluate the association between perceptions of parental bonding in childhood/adolescence, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response, and callosal structural integrity in adult victims of severe urban violence with and without PTSD.
Methods
Seventy-one individuals with PTSD and 62 without the disorder were assessed with the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI). The prednisolone suppression test was administered to assess cortisol levels, and magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess the total area of the corpus callosum (CC), as well as the areas of callosal subregions.
Results
The PBI items related to the perception of ‘not having a controlling mother’ (OR 4.84; 95%CI [2.26–10.3]; p = 0.01), ‘having a caring father’ (OR 2.46; 95'%CI [1.18–5.12]; p = 0.02), and ‘not having controlling parents’ (OR 2.70; 95%CI [1.10–6.63]; p = 0.04) were associated with a lower risk of PTSD. The PTSD group showed a blunted response to the prednisolone suppression test, with lower salivary cortisol levels upon waking up (p = 0.03). Individuals with PTSD had smaller total CC area than those without the disorder, but these differences were not statistically significant (e-value  = 0.34).
Conclusions
Healthy parental bonding, characterized by the perception of low parental control and high affection, were associated with a lower risk of PTSD in adulthood, suggesting that emotional enrichment and the encouragement of autonomy are protective against PTSD in adulthood.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087117
PMCID: PMC3906133  PMID: 24489851
6.  The thickness of posterior cortical areas is related to executive dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease 
Clinics  2014;69(1):28-37.
OBJECTIVE:
To establish whether alterations of brain structures in Alzheimer's disease are associated with executive dysfunction.
METHODS:
Nineteen patients with Alzheimer's disease and 22 older control subjects underwent a comprehensive evaluation. The clock drawing test, digit span test, executive motor function test, Behavioral Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome battery (Rule Shift Cards test), and Stroop test were used to evaluate executive dysfunction. A multiparametric approach using the FreeSurfer image analysis suite provided a description of volumetric and geometric features of the gray matter structures.
RESULTS:
The cortical thickness maps showed a negative correlation between the Behavioral Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome battery (Rule Shift Cards test) and the right middle frontal gyrus; a positive correlation between the executive motor function test and the left superior parietal gyrus, left middle temporal gyrus, bilateral supramarginal gyri, right middle frontal gyrus, and right precuneus; a negative correlation between the Stroop test (part III) and the right superior parietal gyrus; and a negative correlation between the Stroop test (part III) and the right middle temporal gyrus.
CONCLUSION:
Executive dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease is correlated with alterations not only in the frontal areas but also within many temporal and parietal regions.
doi:10.6061/clinics/2014(01)05
PMCID: PMC3870310  PMID: 24473557
Executive Functions; Alzheimer's Disease; Magnetic Resonance Imaging
7.  Riluzole Effect on Occipital Cortex: A Structural and Spectroscopy Pilot Study 
Neuroscience letters  2012;530(1):103-107.
Background
To investigate the mechanism underlying the anxiolytic properties of riluzole, a glutamate-modulating agent, we previously studied the effect of this drug on hippocampal N-Acetylaspartate (NAA) and volume in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In the same cohort, we now extend our investigation to the occipital cortex, a brain region that was recently implicated in the antidepressant effect of riluzole.
Methods
Fourteen medication-free adult patients with GAD received 8-week of open-label riluzole. Ten healthy subjects served as a comparison group. The healthy group did not receive riluzole treatment. Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy at baseline and at the end of Week 8. Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) and Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) were used as the primary and secondary outcome measures, respectively.
Results
At baseline, we found clusters of increased cortical thickness in the occipital region in GAD compared to healthy subjects. In the right hemisphere, eight weeks of treatment reduced occipital cortical thickness in the GAD group (t = 3.67, p = 0.004). In addition, the improvement in HAM-A scores was negatively correlated with post-treatment right occipital NAA (r = − 0.68, p = 0.008), and with changes in NAA levels (r = − 0.53, p = 0.051). In the left hemisphere, we found positive associations between changes in occipital cortical thickness and improvement in HAM-A (r = 0.60, p = 0.04) and PSWQ (r = 0.62, p = 0.03).
Conclusion
These pilot findings implicate the occipital cortex as a brain region associated with pathology and clinical improvement in GAD. In addition, the region specific effect of riluzole implies a distinct pathophysiology in the occipital cortex – compared to other, previously studied, frontolimbic brain structures.
doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.09.054
PMCID: PMC3490039  PMID: 23043888
Riluzole; generalized anxiety disorder; biomarkers; glutamate; N-Acetylaspartate; occipital cortex; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; structural MRI
8.  Corpus callosum in maltreated children with PTSD: A diffusion tensor imaging study 
Psychiatry research  2008;162(3):256-261.
Contrary to expectations derived from preclinical studies of the effects of stress, and imaging studies of adults with PTSD, there is no evidence of hippocampus atrophy in children with PTSD. Multiple pediatric studies have reported reductions in the corpus callosum – the primary white matter tract in the brain. Consequently, in the present study, Diffusion Tensor Imaging was used to assess corpus callosum white matter integrity in 17 maltreated children with PTSD and 15 demographically matched normal controls. Children with PTSD had reduced fractional anisotropy in the medial and posterior corpus, a region which contains interhemispheric projections from brain structures involved in circuits that mediate the processing of emotional stimuli and various memory functions --- core disturbances associated with a history of trauma. Further exploration of the effects of stress on corpus callosum and white matter development appears a promising strategy to better understanding the pathophysiology of PTSD in children.
doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2007.08.006
PMCID: PMC3771642  PMID: 18296031
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder; Imaging; DTI; children
9.  Latent class analysis of reading, decoding, and writing performance using the Academic Performance Test: concurrent and discriminating validity 
Aim
To explore and validate the best returned latent class solution for reading and writing subtests from the Academic Performance Test (TDE).
Sample
A total of 1,945 children (6–14 years of age), who answered the TDE, the Development and Well-Being Assessment (DAWBA), and had an estimated intelligence quotient (IQ) higher than 70, came from public schools in São Paulo (35 schools) and Porto Alegre (22 schools) that participated in the ‘High Risk Cohort Study for Childhood Psychiatric Disorders’ project. They were on average 9.52 years old (standard deviation = 1.856), from the 1st to 9th grades, and 53.3% male. The mean estimated IQ was 102.70 (standard deviation = 16.44).
Methods
Via Item Response Theory (IRT), the highest discriminating items (‘a’>1.7) were selected from the TDE subtests of reading and writing. A latent class analysis was run based on these subtests. The statistically and empirically best latent class solutions were validated through concurrent (IQ and combined attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] diagnoses) and discriminant (major depression diagnoses) measures.
Results
A three-class solution was found to be the best model solution, revealing classes of children with good, not-so-good, or poor performance on TDE reading and writing tasks. The three-class solution has been shown to be correlated with estimated IQ and to ADHD diagnosis. No association was observed between the latent class and major depression.
Conclusion
The three-class solution showed both concurrent and discriminant validity. This work provides initial evidence of validity for an empirically derived categorical classification of reading, decoding, and writing performance using the TDE. A valid classification encourages further research investing correlates of reading and writing performance using the TDE.
doi:10.2147/NDT.S45785
PMCID: PMC3748054  PMID: 23983466
Academic Performance Test; TDE; decoding; writing; validity
10.  Diffusion tensor imaging in autism spectrum disorders: Preliminary evidence of abnormal neural connectivity 
Objective
This study indirectly tested the hypothesis that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have impaired neural connections between the amygdala, fusiform face area, and superior temporal sulcus, key processing nodes of the “social brain.” This would be evidenced by abnormalities in the major fibre tracts known to connect these structures, including the inferior longitudinal fasciculus and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus.
Method
Magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging was performed on 20 right-handed males (ASD = 10, controls = 10) with a mean age 13.5 ± 4.0 years. Subjects were group-matched according to age, full-scale IQ, handedness, and ethnicity. Fractional anisotropy was used to assess structural integrity of major fibre tracts. Voxel-wise comparison of white matter fractional anisotropy was conducted between groups using ANCOVA adjusting for age, full-scale IQ, and brain volume. Volumes of interest were identified using predetermined probability and cluster thresholds. Follow-up tractography was performed to confirm the anatomic location of all volumes of interest.
Results
All volumes of interest were regions of lower FA and were observed primarily in pericallosal regions and temporal lobes. As confirmed by tractography, affected white matter structures included the inferior longitudinal fasciculus/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and corpus callosum/cingulum. Notably, some volumes of interest were adjacent to the fusiform face area, bilaterally, corresponding to involvement of the inferior longitudinal fasciculus. The largest effect sizes were noted for volumes of interest in the right anterior radiation of the corpus callosum/cingulum and right fusiform face area (inferior longitudinal fasciculus).
Conclusions
This study provides preliminary evidence of impaired neural connectivity in the corpus callosum/cingulum and temporal lobes involving the inferior longitudinal fasciculus/inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus and superior longitudinal fasciculus in ASDs. These findings provide preliminary support for aberrant neural connectivity between the amygdala, fusiform face area, and superior temporal sulcus – temporal lobe structures critical for normal social perception and cognition.
doi:10.3109/00048674.2010.534069
PMCID: PMC3123660  PMID: 21128874
autism; connectivity; diffusion tensor imaging; social brain; white matter
11.  The role of early life stress in development of the anterior limb of the internal capsule in non-human primates 
Neuroscience letters  2010;480(2):93-96.
Background
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) may be effective in treating depression. Parental verbal abuse has been linked to decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and reduced FA correlated with depression and anxiety scores. Utilizing a nonhuman primate model of mood and anxiety disorders following disrupted mother-infant attachment, we examined whether adverse rearing conditions lead to white matter impairment of the ALIC.
Methods
We examined white matter integrity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) on a 3T-MRI. Twenty-one adult male Bonnet macaques participated in this study: 12 were reared under adverse [variable foraging demand (VFD)] conditions whereas 9 were reared under normative conditions. We examined ALIC, posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and occipital white matter.
Results
VFD rearing was associated with significant reductions in FA in the ALIC with no changes evident in the PLIC or occipital cortex white matter.
Conclusion
Adverse rearing in monkeys persistently impaired frontal white matter tract integrity, a novel substrate for understanding affective susceptibility.
doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2010.06.012
PMCID: PMC2951885  PMID: 20541590
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand
12.  Voxel-based morphometry findings in Alzheimer's disease: neuropsychiatric symptoms and disability correlations – preliminary results 
Clinics  2011;66(6):1045-1050.
INTRODUCTION:
The role of structural brain changes and their correlations with neuropsychiatric symptoms and disability in Alzheimer's disease are still poorly understood.
OBJECTIVE:
To establish whether structural changes in grey matter volume in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease are associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms and disability.
METHODS:
Nineteen Alzheimer's disease patients (9 females; total mean age  = 75.2 y old ±4.7; total mean education level  = 8.5 y ±4.9) underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination and voxel-based morphometry analysis. T1-weighted images were spatially normalized and segmented. Grey matter images were smoothed and analyzed using a multiple regression design. The results were corrected for multiple comparisons. The Neuropsychiatric Inventory was used to evaluate the neuropsychiatric symptoms, and the Functional Activities Questionnaire and Disability Assessment for Dementia were used for functional evaluation.
RESULTS:
A significant negative correlation was found between the bilateral middle frontal gyri, left inferior temporal gyrus, right orbitofrontal gyrus, and Neuropsychiatric Inventory scores. A negative correlation was found between bilateral middle temporal gyri, left hippocampus, bilateral fusiform gyri, and the Functional Activities Questionnaire. There was a positive correlation between the right amygdala, bilateral fusiform gyri, right anterior insula, left inferior and middle temporal gyri, right superior temporal gyrus, and Disability Assessment for Dementia scores.
CONCLUSIONS:
The results suggest that the neuropsychiatric symptoms observed in Alzheimer's disease patients could be mainly due to frontal structural abnormalities, whereas disability could be associated with reductions in temporal structures.
doi:10.1590/S1807-59322011000600021
PMCID: PMC3129969  PMID: 21808873
Dementia; behavior disorder (Bpsd); Functional impairment; MRI
13.  Integrated Intensity and Point-Feature Nonrigid Registration 
In this work, we present a method for the integration of feature and intensity information for non rigid registration. Our method is based on a free-form deformation model, and uses a normalized mutual information intensity similarity metric to match intensities and the robust point matching framework to estimate feature (point) correspondences. The intensity and feature components of the registration are posed in a single energy functional with associated weights. We compare our method to both point-based and intensity-based registrations. In particular, we evaluate registration accuracy as measured by point landmark distances and image intensity similarity on a set of seventeen normal subjects. These results suggest that the integration of intensity and point-based registration is highly effective in yielding more accurate registrations.
doi:10.1901/jaba.2001.3216-763
PMCID: PMC2869095  PMID: 20473359
14.  The posttraumatic stress disorder project in Brazil: neuropsychological, structural and molecular neuroimaging studies in victims of urban violence 
BMC Psychiatry  2009;9:30.
Background
Life trauma is highly prevalent in the general population and posttraumatic stress disorder is among the most prevalent psychiatric consequences of trauma exposure. Brazil has a unique environment to conduct translational research about psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder, since urban violence became a Brazilian phenomenon, being particularly related to the rapid population growth of its cities. This research involves three case-control studies: a neuropsychological, a structural neuroimaging and a molecular neuroimaging study, each focusing on different objectives but providing complementary information. First, it aims to examine cognitive functioning of PTSD subjects and its relationships with symptomatology. The second objective is to evaluate neurostructural integrity of orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus in PTSD subjects. The third aim is to evaluate if patients with PTSD have decreased dopamine transporter density in the basal ganglia as compared to resilient controls subjects. This paper shows the research rationale and design for these three case-control studies.
Methods and design
Cases and controls will be identified through an epidemiologic survey conducted in the city of São Paulo. Subjects exposed to traumatic life experiences resulting in posttraumatic stress disorder (cases) will be compared to resilient victims of traumatic life experiences without PTSD (controls) aiming to identify biological variables that might protect or predispose to PTSD. In the neuropsychological case-control study, 100 patients with PTSD, will be compared with 100 victims of trauma without posttraumatic stress disorder, age- and sex-matched controls. Similarly, 50 cases and 50 controls will be enrolled for the structural study and 25 cases and 25 controls in the functional neuroimaging study. All individuals from the three studies will complete psychometrics and a structured clinical interview (the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, Global Assessment of Function, The Social Adjustment Scale, Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey, Early Trauma Inventory, Clinical global Impressions, and Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire). A broad neuropsychological battery will be administered for all participants of the neuropsychological study. Magnetic resonance scans will be performed to acquire structural neuroimaging data. Single photon emission computerized tomography with [(99m)Tc]-TRODAT-1 brain scans will be performed to evaluate dopamine transporters.
Discussion
This study protocol will be informative for researchers and clinicians interested in considering, designing and/or conducting translational research in the field of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-30
PMCID: PMC2702374  PMID: 19480721

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