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1.  Cognitive Impairment in Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 Is Associated with White Matter Damage 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104697.
Objective
To investigate grey (GM) and white matter (WM) abnormalities and their effects on cognitive and behavioral deficits in a large, phenotypically and genotypically well-characterized cohort of classic adult (aDM1, age at onset ≥20 years) or juvenile (jDM1, age at onset <20 years) patients with myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1).
Methods
A case-control study including 51 DM1 patients (17 jDM1 and 34 aDM1) and 34 controls was conducted at an academic medical center. Clinical, cognitive and structural MRI evaluations were obtained. Quantitative assessments of regional GM volumes, WM hyperintensities (WMHs), and microstructural WM tract damage were performed. The association between structural brain damage and clinical and cognitive findings was assessed.
Results
DM1 patients showed a high prevalence of WMHs, severe regional GM atrophy including the key nodes of the sensorimotor and main cognitive brain networks, and WM microstructural damage of the interhemispheric, corticospinal, limbic and associative pathways. WM tract damage extends well beyond the focal WMHs. While aDM1 patients had severe patterns of GM atrophy and WM tract damage, in jDM1 patients WM abnormalities exceeded GM involvement. In DM1, WMHs and microstructural damage, but not GM atrophy, correlated with cognitive deficits.
Conclusions
WM damage, through a disconnection between GM structures, is likely to be the major contributor to cognitive impairment in DM1. Our MRI findings in aDM1 and jDM1 patients support the hypothesis of a degenerative (premature aging) origin of the GM abnormalities and of developmental changes as the principal substrates of microstructural WM alterations in DM1.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104697
PMCID: PMC4130603  PMID: 25115999
2.  Reduced limbic metabolism and fronto-cortical volume in rats vulnerable to alcohol addiction 
NeuroImage  2012;69:112-119.
Alcohol abuse is associated with long-term reductions in fronto-cortical volume and limbic metabolism. However, an unanswered question in alcohol research is whether these alterations are the sole consequence of chronic alcohol use, or contain heritable contributions reflecting biological propensity toward ethanol addiction. Animal models of genetic predisposition to alcohol dependence can be used to investigate the role of inborn brain abnormalities in the aetiology of alcoholism. Here we used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in e Marchigian Sardinian (msP) alcohol-preferring rats to assess the presence of inherited structural or functional brain alterations. Alcohol-naïve msP (N=22) and control rats (N=26) were subjected to basal cerebral blood volume (bCBV) mapping followed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of gray matter and tract-based spatial statistics mapping of white matter fractional anisotropy. msP rats exhibited significantly reduced bCBV, an established marker of resting brain function, in focal cortico-limbic and thalamic areas, together with reduced gray matter volume in the thalamus, ventral tegmental area, insular and cingulate cortex. No statistically significant differences in fractional anisotropy were observed between groups. These findings highlight the presence of inborn gray matter and metabolic abnormalities in alcohol-naïve msP rats, the localization and sign of which are remarkably similar to those mapped in abstinent alcoholics and subjects at high risk for alcohol dependence. Collectively, these results point for a significant role of heritable neurofunctional brain alterations in biological propensity toward ethanol addiction, and support the translational use of advanced imaging methods to describe the circuital determinants of vulnerability to drug addiction.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.12.015
PMCID: PMC4108793  PMID: 23261637
alcohol; VBM; fMRI; gray matter; addiction; metabolism
3.  Extramotor Damage Is Associated with Cognition in Primary Lateral Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82017.
Objectives
This is a cross-sectional study aimed at investigating cognitive performances in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and using diffusion tensor (DT) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the topographical distribution of microstructural white matter (WM) damage in patients with or without cognitive deficits.
Methods
DT MRI scans were obtained from 21 PLS patients and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. All PLS patients underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Tract-based-spatial-statistics (TBSS) was used to perform a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial, radial (radD) and mean diffusivity (MD).
Results
Ten PLS patients had abnormal scores in at least one neuropsychological test (PLS with cognitive deficits, PLS-cd). Compared with healthy controls and cognitively unimpaired PLS patients (PLS-cu), PLS-cd cases showed decreased FA and increased MD and radD in the corticospinal tract (CST), corpus callosum, brainstem, anterior limb of internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, fornix, thalamic radiations, and parietal lobes, bilaterally. Compared with healthy controls, PLS-cd patients showed further decreased FA and increased radD in the cerebellar WM, bilaterally. Compared with controls, PLS-cu patients showed decreased FA in the mid-body of corpus callosum. In PLS, executive and language test scores correlated with WM damage.
Conclusions
This is the first study evaluating the relationship between cognitive performance and WM tract damage in PLS patients. PLS can be associated with a multi-domain cognitive impairment. WM damage to interhemispheric, limbic and major associative WM tracts seem to be the structural correlate of cognitive abnormalities in these patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082017
PMCID: PMC3857796  PMID: 24349172
4.  White Matter atrophy in Alzheimer Disease variants 
Background
In comparison to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LO-AD, onset > 65), early age-of-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EO-AD, onset<65 years) more often presents with language, visuospatial and/or executive impairment, often occurring earlier than a progressive memory deficit. The logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (lv-PPA) and the posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) have recently been described as possible atypical variants of EO-AD. Lv-PPA is characterized by isolated language deficit, while PCA is characterized by predominant visuospatial deficits. Severe hemispheric grey matter (GM) atrophy associated with EO-AD, lv-PPA and PCA has been described, but regional patterns of white matter (WM) damage are still poorly understood.
Methods
Using structural MRI and voxel-based morphometry, we investigated WM damage in 16 EO-AD, 13 PCA, 10 lv-PPA, and 14 LO-AD patients at presentation, and 72 age-matched controls.
Results
In EO-AD, PCA and lv-PPA patients, WM atrophy was centered on lateral temporal and parietal regions, including cingulum and posterior corpus callosum. Compared to controls, lv-PPA patients showed a more severe left parietal damage, and PCA showed a more severe occipital atrophy. Moreover, EO-AD had greater cingulum atrophy compared with LO-AD. LO-AD showed WM damage in medial temporal regions and less extensive hemispheric involvement.
Conclusions
Patterns of WM damage in EO-AD, lv-PPA and PCA are consistent with the clinical syndromes and GM atrophy patterns. WM injury in AD atypical variants may contribute to symptoms and disease pathogenesis.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2012.04.010
PMCID: PMC3717610  PMID: 23021625
Alzheimer’s disease; white matter damage; cerebral network; age of onset; VBM
5.  Neuroimaging Evidence of Altered Fronto-Cortical and Striatal Function after Prolonged Cocaine Self-Administration in the Rat 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;36(12):2431-2440.
Cocaine addiction is often modeled in experimental paradigms where rodents learn to self-administer (SA) the drug. However, the extent to which these models replicate the functional alterations observed in clinical neuroimaging studies of cocaine addiction remains unknown. We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess basal and evoked brain function in rats subjected to a prolonged, extended-access cocaine SA scheme. Specifically, we measured basal cerebral blood volume (bCBV), an established correlate of basal metabolism, and assessed the reactivity of the dopaminergic system by mapping the pharmacological MRI (phMRI) response evoked by the dopamine-releaser amphetamine. Cocaine-exposed subjects exhibited reduced bCBV in fronto-cortical areas, nucleus accumbens, ventral hippocampus, and thalamus. The cocaine group also showed an attenuated functional response to amphetamine in ventrostriatal areas, an effect that was significantly correlated with total cocaine intake. An inverse relationship between bCBV in the reticular thalamus and the frontal response elicited by amphetamine was found in control subjects but not in the cocaine group, suggesting that the inhibitory interplay within this attentional circuit may be compromised by the drug. Importantly, histopathological analysis did not reveal significant alterations of the microvascular bed in the brain of cocaine-exposed subjects, suggesting that the imaging findings cannot be merely ascribed to cocaine-induced vascular damage. These results document that chronic, extended-access cocaine SA in the rat produces focal fronto-cortical and striatal alterations that serve as plausible neurobiological substrate for the behavioral expression of compulsive drug intake in laboratory animals.
doi:10.1038/npp.2011.129
PMCID: PMC3194070  PMID: 21775976
cocaine; fMRI; phMRI; dopamine; addiction; rat; imaging; clinical or preclinical; animal models; addiction & substance abuse; dopamine; fMRI; phMRI; rat; amphetamine; CBV
6.  White matter damage in primary progressive aphasias: a diffusion tensor tractography study 
Brain  2011;134(10):3011-3029.
Primary progressive aphasia is a clinical syndrome that encompasses three major phenotypes: non-fluent/agrammatic, semantic and logopenic. These clinical entities have been associated with characteristic patterns of focal grey matter atrophy in left posterior frontoinsular, anterior temporal and left temporoparietal regions, respectively. Recently, network-level dysfunction has been hypothesized but research to date has focused largely on studying grey matter damage. The aim of this study was to assess the integrity of white matter tracts in the different primary progressive aphasia subtypes. We used diffusion tensor imaging in 48 individuals: nine non-fluent, nine semantic, nine logopenic and 21 age-matched controls. Probabilistic tractography was used to identify bilateral inferior longitudinal (anterior, middle, posterior) and uncinate fasciculi (referred to as the ventral pathway); and the superior longitudinal fasciculus segmented into its frontosupramarginal, frontoangular, frontotemporal and temporoparietal components, (referred to as the dorsal pathway). We compared the tracts’ mean fractional anisotropy, axial, radial and mean diffusivities for each tract in the different diagnostic categories. The most prominent white matter changes were found in the dorsal pathways in non-fluent patients, in the two ventral pathways and the temporal components of the dorsal pathways in semantic variant, and in the temporoparietal component of the dorsal bundles in logopenic patients. Each of the primary progressive aphasia variants showed different patterns of diffusion tensor metrics alterations: non-fluent patients showed the greatest changes in fractional anisotropy and radial and mean diffusivities; semantic variant patients had severe changes in all metrics; and logopenic patients had the least white matter damage, mainly involving diffusivity, with fractional anisotropy altered only in the temporoparietal component of the dorsal pathway. This study demonstrates that both careful dissection of the main language tracts and consideration of all diffusion tensor metrics are necessary to characterize the white matter changes that occur in the variants of primary progressive aphasia. These results highlight the potential value of diffusion tensor imaging as a new tool in the multimodal diagnostic evaluation of primary progressive aphasia.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr099
PMCID: PMC3187537  PMID: 21666264
primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; logopenic progressive aphasia; diffusion tensor imaging
7.  The Cortical Signature of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42816.
The aim of this study was to explore the pattern of regional cortical thickness in patients with non-familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and to investigate whether cortical thinning is associated with disease progression rate. Cortical thickness analysis was performed in 44 ALS patients and 26 healthy controls. Group differences in cortical thickness and the age-by-group effects were assessed using vertex-by-vertex and multivariate linear models. The discriminatory ability of MRI variables in distinguishing patients from controls was estimated using the Concordance Statistics (C-statistic) within logistic regression analyses. Correlations between cortical thickness measures and disease progression rate were tested using the Pearson coefficient. Relative to controls, ALS patients showed a bilateral cortical thinning of the primary motor, prefrontal and ventral frontal cortices, cingulate gyrus, insula, superior and inferior temporal and parietal regions, and medial and lateral occipital areas. There was a significant age-by-group effect in the sensorimotor cortices bilaterally, suggesting a stronger association between age and cortical thinning in ALS patients compared to controls. The mean cortical thickness of the sensorimotor cortices distinguished patients with ALS from controls (C-statistic ≥0.74). Cortical thinning of the left sensorimotor cortices was related to a faster clinical progression (r = −0.33, p = 0.03). Cortical thickness measurements allowed the detection and quantification of motor and extramotor involvement in patients with ALS. Cortical thinning of the precentral gyrus might offer a marker of upper motor neuron involvement and disease progression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042816
PMCID: PMC3412820  PMID: 22880116
8.  Neural correlates of syntactic processing in the non-fluent variant of primary progressive aphasia 
The left posterior inferior frontal cortex (IFC) is important for syntactic processing, and has been shown in many functional imaging studies to be differentially recruited for the processing of syntactically complex sentences relative to simpler ones. In the non-fluent variant of primary progressive aphasia (PPA), degeneration of the posterior IFC is associated with expressive and receptive agrammatism, however the functional status of this region in non-fluent PPA is not well understood. Our objective was to determine whether the atrophic posterior IFC is differentially recruited for the processing of syntactically complex sentences in non-fluent PPA. Using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, we quantified tissue volumes and functional responses to a syntactic comprehension task in eight patients with non-fluent PPA, compared to healthy age-matched controls. In controls, the posterior IFC showed more activity for syntactically complex sentences than simpler ones, as expected. In non-fluent PPA patients, the posterior IFC was atrophic and, unlike controls, showed an equivalent level of functional activity for syntactically complex and simpler sentences. This abnormal pattern of functional activity was specific to the posterior IFC: the mid superior temporal sulcus, another region modulated by syntactic complexity in controls, showed normal modulation by complexity in patients. A more anterior inferior frontal region was recruited by patients, but did not support successful syntactic processing. We conclude that in non-fluent PPA, the posterior IFC is not only structurally damaged, but is also functionally abnormal, suggesting a critical role for this region in the breakdown of syntactic processing in this syndrome.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2547-10.2010
PMCID: PMC3024013  PMID: 21159955
syntactic processing; primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; inferior frontal gyrus; superior temporal sulcus; functional magnetic resonance imaging
9.  Language networks in semantic dementia 
Brain  2009;133(1):286-299.
Cognitive deficits in semantic dementia have been attributed to anterior temporal lobe grey matter damage; however, key aspects of the syndrome could be due to altered anatomical connectivity between language pathways involving the temporal lobe. The aim of this study was to investigate the left language-related cerebral pathways in semantic dementia using diffusion tensor imaging-based tractography and to combine the findings with cortical anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging data obtained during a reading activation task. The left inferior longitudinal fasciculus, arcuate fasciculus and fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus were tracked in five semantic dementia patients and eight healthy controls. The left uncinate fasciculus and the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum were also obtained for comparison with previous studies. From each tract, mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy, as well as parallel and transverse diffusivities were obtained. Diffusion tensor imaging results were related to grey and white matter atrophy volume assessed by voxel-based morphometry and functional magnetic resonance imaging activations during a reading task. Semantic dementia patients had significantly higher mean diffusivity, parallel and transverse in the inferior longitudinal fasciculus. The arcuate and uncinate fasciculi demonstrated significantly higher mean diffusivity, parallel and transverse and significantly lower fractional anisotropy. The fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus was relatively spared, with a significant difference observed for transverse diffusivity and fractional anisotropy, only. In the corpus callosum, the genu showed lower fractional anisotropy compared with controls, while no difference was found in the splenium. The left parietal cortex did not show significant volume changes on voxel-based morphometry and demonstrated normal functional magnetic resonance imaging activation in response to reading items that stress sublexical phonological processing. This study shows that semantic dementia is associated with anatomical damage to the major superior and inferior temporal white matter connections of the left hemisphere likely involved in semantic and lexical processes, with relative sparing of the fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus. Fronto-parietal regions connected by this tract were activated normally in the same patients during sublexical reading. These findings contribute to our understanding of the anatomical changes that occur in semantic dementia, and may further help to explain the dissociation between marked single-word and object knowledge deficits, but sparing of phonology and fluency in semantic dementia.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp233
PMCID: PMC2801321  PMID: 19759202
semantic dementia; semantic knowledge; diffusion tensor-based tractography; functional MRI; voxel-based morphometry
10.  A one-year prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, quadruple-blinded, phase II safety pilot trial of combination therapy with interferon beta-1a and mycophenolate mofetil in early relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis (TIME MS) 
Background: Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) is an oral DNA base synthesis inhibitor with immunomodulatory effects on B cells, T cells, and macrophages.
Objective: To conduct a safety and tolerability pilot study of interferon beta-1a (IFN-b1a) in combination with either placebo or oral MMF in multiple sclerosis (MS).
Methods: Twenty-four treatment-naïve R–RMS patients participated in a one-year prospective, placebo-controlled, blinded, safety pilot clinical trial. Every patient injected weekly intramuscular interferon beta-1a. The cohort was then randomized (1 : 1) to either active oral MMF or identical-appearing placebo tablets. Clinical evaluations were assessed every 3 months, along with brain MRI scans performed at baseline and repeated every 60 days for one year. Comprehensive laboratory assessments were monitored for safety, along with adverse events.
Results: In this small pilot investigation, no differences were identified between the two treatment groups with respect to patient-reported adverse events, MRI metrics, or laboratory abnormalities. Notwithstanding these observations, and the limited number of patients treated, trends appeared to favor the combination therapy regimen.
Conclusions: The combination treatment regimen of interferon beta-1a and MMF appeared to be well tolerated in this pilot study. Despite the small sample size, therapeutic trends were observed in favor of combination therapy. An adequately powered controlled trial of MMF in MS appears warranted.
doi:10.1177/1756285609355851
PMCID: PMC3002615  PMID: 21180632
CellCept; immunosuppression; mycophenolate mofetil; relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis; treatment naïve
11.  The neural basis of surface dyslexia in semantic dementia 
Brain  2008;132(1):71-86.
Semantic dementia (SD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by atrophy of anterior temporal regions and progressive loss of semantic memory. SD patients often present with surface dyslexia, a relatively selective impairment in reading low-frequency words with exceptional or atypical spelling-to-sound correspondences. Exception words are typically ‘over-regularized’ in SD and pronounced as they are spelled (e.g. ‘sew’ is pronounced as ‘sue’). This suggests that in the absence of sufficient item-specific knowledge, exception words are read by relying mainly on subword processes for regular mapping of orthography to phonology. In this study, we investigated the functional anatomy of surface dyslexia in SD using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and studied its relationship to structural damage with voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Five SD patients and nine healthy age-matched controls were scanned while they read regular words, exception words and pseudowords in an event-related design. Vocal responses were recorded and revealed that all patients were impaired in reading low-frequency exception words, and made frequent over-regularization errors. Consistent with prior studies, fMRI data revealed that both groups activated a similar basic network of bilateral occipital, motor and premotor regions for reading single words. VBM showed that these regions were not significantly atrophied in SD. In control subjects, a region in the left intraparietal sulcus was activated for reading pseudowords and low-frequency regular words but not exception words, suggesting a role for this area in subword mapping from orthographic to phonological representations. In SD patients only, this inferior parietal region, which was not atrophied, was also activated by reading low-frequency exception words, especially on trials where over-regularization errors occurred. These results suggest that the left intraparietal sulcus is involved in subword reading processes that are differentially recruited in SD when word-specific information is lost. This loss is likely related to degeneration of the anterior temporal lobe, which was severely atrophied in SD. Consistent with this, left mid-fusiform and superior temporal regions that showed reading-related activations in controls were not activated in SD. Taken together, these results suggest that the left inferior parietal region subserves subword orthographic-to-phonological processes that are recruited for exception word reading when retrieval of exceptional, item-specific word forms is impaired by degeneration of the anterior temporal lobe.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn300
PMCID: PMC2638692  PMID: 19022856
semantic dementia; dyslexia; parietal lobe; voxel-based morphometry; functional MRI
12.  Neuroimaging in Dementia 
Seminars in neurology  2008;28(4):467-483.
Although dementia is a clinical diagnosis, neuroimaging often is crucial for proper assessment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) may identify nondegenerative and potentially treatable causes of dementia. Recent neuroimaging advances, such as the Pittsburgh Compound-B (PIB) ligand for positron emission tomography imaging in Alzheimer’s disease, will improve our ability to differentiate among the neurodegenerative dementias. High-resolution volumetric MRI has increased the capacity to identify the various forms of the frontotemporal lobar degeneration spectrum and some forms of parkinsonism or cerebellar neurodegenerative disorders, such as corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple system atrophy, and spinocerebellar ataxias. In many cases, the specific pattern of cortical and subcortical abnormalities on MRI has diagnostic utility. Finally, among the new MRI methods, diffusion-weighted MRI can help in the early diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Although only clinical assessment can lead to a diagnosis of dementia, neuroimaging is clearly an invaluable tool for the clinician in the differential diagnosis.
doi:10.1055/s-0028-1083695
PMCID: PMC2647854  PMID: 18843575
MRI; PET; Pittsburgh Compound-B; dementia; neurodegenerative disease

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