Primary progressive apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder of planning and programming is a tauopathy that has overlapping histological features with progressive supranuclear palsy. We aimed to compare, for the first time, atrophy patterns, as well as white matter tract degeneration, between these two syndromes.
Sixteen primary progressive apraxia of speech subjects were age and gender-matched to 16 progressive supranuclear palsy subjects and 20 controls. All subjects were prospectively recruited, underwent neurological and speech evaluations, and 3.0 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging. Grey and white matter atrophy was assessed using voxel-based morphometry and atlas-based parcellation, and white matter tract degeneration was assessed using diffusion tensor imaging.
All progressive supranuclear palsy subjects had typical occulomotor/gait impairments but none had speech apraxia. Both syndromes showed grey matter loss in supplementary motor area, white matter loss in posterior frontal lobes and degeneration of the body of the corpus callosum. While lateral grey matter loss was focal, involving superior premotor cortex, in primary progressive apraxia of speech, loss was less focal extending into prefrontal cortex in progressive supranuclear palsy. Caudate volume loss and tract degeneration of superior cerebellar peduncles was also observed in progressive supranuclear palsy. Interestingly, area of the midbrain was reduced in both syndromes compared to controls, although this was greater in progressive supranuclear palsy.
Although neuroanatomical differences were identified between these distinctive clinical syndromes, substantial overlap was also observed, including midbrain atrophy, suggesting these two syndromes may have common pathophysiological underpinnings.