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1.  Cognitive change in patients with Huntington disease on the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status 
Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disease associated with cognitive, motor, and psychiatric deterioration over time. Although there is currently no cure for HD, there has been a surge of clinical trials available to patients with HD over the past 5 years. However, cognitive measures have generally been lacking from these trials. A brief, repeatable neuropsychological battery is needed to assess cognitive endpoints. The Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) may be useful for assessing change in interventional studies or for clinical monitoring. A total of 38 patients with HD were assessed using the RBANS, other cognitive tests, and the standardized HD battery (Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale, UHDRS) at two clinic visits approximately 16 months apart. The RBANS Attention Index, as well as individual subtest scores on Coding, Digit Span, List Recognition, Figure Copy, and Figure Recall all declined significantly over this interval. Performance on the UHDRS cognitive tests (Symbol Digit Modalities; Stroop Color, and Stroop Word) also declined, as did functional capacity. Results suggest that cognitive changes were detected both on established cognitive tasks used in HD research and on the RBANS in patients with measurable functional decline. The RBANS provided additional information about other cognitive domains affected (e.g., memory) and may be a useful measure for tracking longitudinal change.
PMCID: PMC3806302  PMID: 19882420
Huntington Disease; Neuropsychological assessment; Memory; Dementia; Executive functions
2.  Earliest functional declines in Huntington disease 
Psychiatry research  2010;178(2):414-418.
We examined the gold standard for Huntington disease (HD) functional assessment, the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS), in a group of at-risk participants not yet diagnosed but who later phenoconverted to manifest HD. We also sought to determine which skill domains first weaken and the clinical correlates of declines. Using the UHDRS Total Functional Capacity (TFC) and Functional Assessment Scale (FAS), we examined participants from Huntington Study Group clinics who were not diagnosed at their baseline visit but were diagnosed at a later visit (N = 265). Occupational decline was the most common with 65.1% (TFC) and 55.6% (FAS) reporting some loss of ability to engage in their typical work. Inability to manage finances independently (TFC 49.2%, FAS 35.1%) and drive safely (FAS 33.5%) were also found. Functional decline was significantly predicted by motor, cognitive, and depressive symptoms. The UHDRS captured early functional losses in individuals with HD prior to formal diagnosis, however, fruitful areas for expanded assessment of early functional changes are performance at work, ability to manage finances, and driving. These are also important areas for clinical monitoring and treatment planning as up to 65% experienced loss in at least one area prior to diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3629818  PMID: 20471695
Neuropsychological assessment; Depression; Daily functioning; Occupation; ADLs (activities of daily living)
3.  Estimating Premorbid Functioning in Huntington's Disease: The Relationship between Disease Progression and the Wide Range Achievement Test Reading Subtest 
The estimation of premorbid abilities is an essential part of a neuropsychological evaluation, especially in neurodegenerative conditions. Although word pronunciation tests are one standard method for estimating the premorbid level, research suggests that these tests may not be valid in neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, the current study sought to examine two estimates of premorbid intellect, the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) Reading subtest and the Barona formula, in 93 patients with mild to moderate Huntington's disease (HD) to determine their utility and to investigate how these measures relate to signs and symptoms of disease progression. In 89% of participants, WRAT estimates were below the Barona estimates. WRAT estimates were related to worsening memory and motor functioning, whereas the Barona estimates had weaker relationships. Neither estimate was related to depression or functional capacity. Irregular word reading tests appear to decline with HD progression, whereas estimation methods based on demographic factors may be more robust but overestimate premorbid functioning.
PMCID: PMC3021970  PMID: 21147861
Huntington's disease; movement disorders; basal ganglia; assessment; dementia
4.  The Trail Making Test in Prodromal Huntington Disease: Contributions of Disease Progression to Test Performance 
We examined the Trail Making Test (TMT) in a sample of 767 participants with prodromal Huntington disease (prodromal HD) and 217 healthy comparisons to determine the contributions of motor, psychiatric, and cognitive changes to TMT scores. Eight traditional and derived TMT scores were also evaluated for their ability to differentiate prodromal participants closer to estimated age of diagnosis from those farther away and prodromal individuals from healthy comparisons. Results indicate that motor signs only mildly affected part A, and psychiatric symptoms did not affect either part. Tests of perceptual processing, visual scanning, and attention were primarily associated with part A, and executive functioning (response inhibition, set-shifting), processing speed, and working memory were associated with part B. Additionally, TMT scores differentiated between healthy comparisons and prodromal HD individuals as far as 9–15 years before estimated diagnosis. In participants manifesting prodromal motor signs and psychiatric symptoms, the TMT primarily measures cognition and is able to discriminate between groups based on health status and estimated time to diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3159183  PMID: 21302170
Huntington disease; cognition; motor; psychiatric; neurodegenerative
5.  Quality of Life in Prodromal HD: Qualitative Analyses of Discourse from Participants and Companions 
Persons who are at risk for Huntington's Disease (HD) can be tested for the HD gene expansion before symptom onset. People with the gene expansion, but no clinical diagnosis, are in the prodromal phase of HD. This study explored quality of life (QOL) in prodromal HD. Interviews about QOL, conducted with 9 prodromal HD participants and 6 companions, were transcribed. Discourse was coded for emotional valence, content (e.g., coping, spirituality, interpersonal relationships, HD in others, and employment), and time frame (e.g., current, past, and future). Respondents were more positive than negative about the present, which was their major focus. The most common statements were about positive attitudes. Positive statements were made about spirituality, and negative statements were made about HD in other people. Relationships, employment, and coping with HD reflected both positivity and negativity. Participants and companions spoke of the future with different concerns. Applicability of findings to the clinical management of HD are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3142873  PMID: 21822491
6.  Self-Paced Timing Detects and Tracks Change in Prodromal Huntington Disease 
Neuropsychology  2010;24(4):435-442.
This study compares self-paced timing performance (cross-sectionally and longitudinally) between participants with prodromal Huntington disease (pr-HD) and a comparison group of gene non-expanded participants from affected families (NC).
At baseline, participants in two groups (747 pr-HD: 188 NC) listened to tones presented at 550ms intervals, matched that pace by tapping response keys and continued the rhythm (self-paced) after the tone had stopped. Standardized cross-sectional and longitudinal linear models examined the relationships between self-paced timing precision and estimated proximity to diagnosis, and various other demographic factors.
Pr-HD participants showed significantly less timing precision than NC. Cross-sectional comparison of pr-HD and NC participants showed a significant performance difference on two administration conditions of the task (dominant hand: p<.0001; alternating thumbs: p<.0001). Additionally, estimated proximity to diagnosis was related to timing precision in both conditions, (dominant hand: t=−11.14,df=920, p<.0001; alternating thumbs: t=−11.32, df=918, p<.0001), even considering demographic and experience variables. Longitudinal modeling showed that pr-HD participants worsen more quickly at the task than the NC group, and that decline rate increases with estimated proximity to diagnosis in both conditions (dominant hand: t=−2.85,df=417, p=.0045; alternating thumbs: t=−3.56, df= 445, p=.0004). Effect sizes based on adjusted mean annual change ranged from −0.34 to 0.25 in the longitudinal model.
The self-paced timing paradigm has potential for use as a screening tool and outcome measure in pr-HD clinical trials to gauge therapeutically-mediated improvement or maintenance of function.
PMCID: PMC2900808  PMID: 20604618
Basal Ganglia; tapping; clinical trials; cognition; isochronous serial interval production

Results 1-6 (6)