Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) comprises two main classes of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by neuronal/glial proteinaceous inclusions (ie. proteinopathies) including tauopathies (i.e. FTLD-Tau) and TDP-43 proteinopathies (i.e. FTLD-TDP) while other very rare forms of FTLD are known such as FTLD with FUS pathology (FTLD-FUS). This review focuses mainly on FTLD-Tau and FLTD-TDP, which may present as several clinical syndromes: a behavioral/dysexecutive syndrome (behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia); language disorders (primary progressive aphasia variants); and motor disorders (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, corticobasal syndrome, progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome). There is considerable heterogeneity in clinical presentations of underlying neuropathology and current clinical criteria do not reliably predict underlying proteinopathies ante-mortem. In contrast, molecular etiologies of hereditary FTLD are consistently associated with specific proteinopathies. These include MAPT mutations with FTLD-Tau and GRN, C9orf72, VCP and TARDBP with FTLD-TDP. The last decade has seen a rapid expansion in our knowledge of the molecular pathologies associated with this clinically and neuropathologically heterogeneous group of FTLD diseases. Moreover, in view of current limitations to reliably diagnose specific FTLD neuropathologies prior to autopsy, we summarize the current state of the science in FTLD biomarker research including neuroimaging, biofluid and genetic analyses. We propose that combining several of these biomarker modalities will improve diagnostic specificity in FTLD through a personalized medicine approach. The goals of these efforts are to enhance power for clinical trials focused on slowing or preventing progression of spread of tau, TDP-43 and other FTLD-associated pathologies and work towards the goal of defining clinical endophenotypes of FTD.
FTLD; TDP-43; Tau; ALS; C9orf72; GRN; MAPT
For social interactions to be successful, individuals must establish shared mental representations that allow them to reach a common understanding and “get on the same page”. We refer to this process as social coordination. While examples of social coordination are ubiquitous in daily life, relatively little is known about the neuroanatomic basis of this complex behavior. This is particularly true in a language context, as previous studies have used overly complex paradigms to study this. Although traditional views of language processing and the recent interactive-alignment account of conversation focus on peri-Sylvian regions, our model of social coordination predicts prefrontal involvement. To test this hypothesis, we examine the neural basis of social coordination during conversational exchanges in non-aphasic patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration (bvFTD). bvFTD patients show impairments in executive function and social comportment due to disease in frontal and anterior temporal regions. To investigate social coordination in bvFTD, we developed a novel language-based task that assesses patients’ ability to convey an object’s description to a conversational partner. Experimental conditions manipulated the amount of information shared by the participant and the conversational partner, and the associated working memory demands. Our results indicate that, although patients did not have difficulty identifying the features of the objects, they did produce descriptions that included insufficient or inappropriate adjectives and thus struggled to communicate effectively. Impaired performance was related to gray matter atrophy particularly in medial prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices. Our findings suggest an important role for non-language brain areas that belong to a large-scale neurocognitive network for social coordination.
frontotemporal degeneration; prefrontal cortex; language; discourse; social cognition; perspective-taking
Up to half of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may have cognitive difficulty, but most cognitive measures are confounded by a motor component. Rare studies have related impaired cognition in ALS to disease in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM). We evaluated a simple, untimed measure of executive functioning with minimal motor demands in ALS, and relate performance to structural disease.
Fifty-six patients with ALS and 29 matched healthy controls were assessed with the Visual-Verbal Test (VVT). This brief measure of cognitive flexibility first assesses an individual's ability to identify a shared feature in three of four simple geometric designs. Cognitive flexibility is challenged when individuals are next asked to identify a different shared feature in another three of the same four geometric designs. Regression analyses related performance to GM atrophy and reduced WM fractional anisotropy (FA) in a subset of patients.
ALS patients were significantly impaired on this simple measure of cognitive flexibility (p<0.01). An error in cognitive flexibility was present in 48.2% of individual ALS patients. Regression analyses related impaired cognitive flexibility to GM atrophy in inferior frontal and insula regions, and to reduced FA in WM projections in inferior frontal-occipital and uncinate fasciculi and corpus callosum.
Patients with ALS have impaired cognitive flexibility on an untimed measure with minimal motor demands, and this is related in part to a large-scale frontal network that is degraded in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cognitive flexibility; prefrontal; white matter
Reduced hearing acuity is among the most prevalent of chronic medical conditions among older adults. An experiment is reported in which comprehension of spoken sentences was tested for older adults with good hearing acuity or with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss, and young adults with age-normal hearing. Comprehension was measured by participants’ ability to determine the agent of an action in sentences that expressed this relation with a syntactically less complex subject-relative construction or a syntactically more complex object-relative construction. Agency determination was further challenged by inserting a prepositional phrase into sentences between the person performing an action and the action being performed. As a control, prepositional phrases of equivalent length were also inserted into sentences in a non-disruptive position. Effects on sentence comprehension of age, hearing acuity, prepositional phrase placement and sound level of stimulus presentations appeared only for comprehension of sentences with the more syntactically complex object-relative structures. Working memory as tested by reading span scores accounted for a significant amount of the variance in comprehension accuracy. Once working memory capacity and hearing acuity were taken into account, chronological age among the older adults contributed no further variance to comprehension accuracy. Results are discussed in terms of the positive and negative effects of sensory–cognitive interactions in comprehension of spoken sentences and lend support to a framework in which domain-general executive resources, notably verbal working memory, play a role in both linguistic and perceptual processing.
working memory; hearing acuity; sentence comprehension; adult aging; syntactic structure
Brain entropy (BEN) mapping provides a novel approach to characterize brain temporal dynamics, a key feature of human brain. Using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI), reliable and spatially distributed BEN patterns have been identified in normal brain, suggesting a potential use in clinical populations since temporal brain dynamics and entropy may be altered in disease conditions. The purpose of this study was to characterize BEN in multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people. Since currently there is no cure for MS, developing treatment or medication that can slow down its progression represents a high research priority, for which validating a brain marker sensitive to disease and the related functional impairments is essential. Because MS can start long time before any measurable symptoms and structural deficits, assessing the dynamic brain activity and correspondingly BEN may provide a critical way to study MS and its progression. Because BEN is new to MS, we aimed to assess BEN alterations in the relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients using a patient versus control design, to examine the correlation of BEN to clinical measurements, and to check the correlation of BEN to structural brain measures which have been more often used in MS studies. As compared to controls, RRMS patients showed increased BEN in motor areas, executive control area, spatial coordinating area, and memory system. Increased BEN was related to greater disease severity as measured by the expanded disability status scale (EDSS) and greater tissue damage as indicated by the mean diffusivity. Patients also showed decreased BEN in other places, which was associated with less disability or fatigue, indicating a disease-related BEN re-distribution. Our results suggest BEN as a novel and useful tool for characterizing RRMS.
To relate changes in fractional anisotropy associated with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia to measures of apathy and disinhibition.
Apathy and disinhibition are the 2 most common behavioral features of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, and these symptoms are associated with accelerated patient decline and caregiver stress. However, little is known about how white matter disease contributes to these symptoms.
We collected neuropsychiatric data, volumetric magnetic resonance imaging, and diffusion-weighted imaging in 11 patients who met published criteria for behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and had an autopsy-validated cerebrospinal fluid profile consistent with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. We also collected imaging data on 34 healthy seniors for analyses defining regions of disease in the patients. We calculated and analyzed fractional anisotropy with a white matter tract-specific method. This approach uses anatomically guided data reduction to increase sensitivity, and localizes results within canonically defined tracts. We used nonparametric, cluster-based statistical analysis to relate fractional anisotropy to neuropsychiatric measures of apathy and disinhibition.
The patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia had widespread reductions in fractional anisotropy in anterior portions of frontal and temporal white matter, compared to the controls. Fractional anisotropy correlated with apathy in the left uncinate fasciculus and with disinhibition in the right corona radiata.
In patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, apathy and disinhibition are associated with distinct regions of white matter disease. The implicated fiber tracts likely support frontotemporal networks that are involved in goal-directed behavior.
diffusion-weighted imaging; frontotemporal dementia; apathy; disinhibition; magnetic resonance imaging
Autopsy studies show widespread pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but clinical surveys of multisystem disease in ALS are rare. We investigated ALS-Plus syndrome, an understudied group of patients with clinical features extending beyond pyramidal and neuromuscular systems with or without cognitive/behavioral deficits.
In a large, consecutively-ascertained cohort of 550 patients with ALS, we documented atypical clinical manifestations. Genetic screening for C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansions was performed in 343 patients, and SOD1, TARDBP, and VCP were tested in the subgroup of patients with a family history of ALS. Gray matter and white matter imaging was available in a subgroup of 30 patients.
Seventy-five (13.6%) patients were identified with ALS-Plus syndrome. We found disorders of ocular motility, cerebellar, extrapyramidal and autonomic functioning. Relative to those without ALS-Plus, cognitive impairment (8.0% vs 2.9%, p=0.029), bulbar-onset (49.3% vs 23.2%, p<0.001), and pathogenic mutations (20.0% vs 8.4%, p=0.015) were more than twice as common in ALS-Plus. Survival was significantly shorter in ALS-Plus (29.66 months vs 42.50 months, p=0.02), regardless of bulbar-onset or mutation status. Imaging revealed significantly greater cerebellar and cerebral disease in ALS-Plus compared to those without ALS-Plus.
ALS-Plus syndrome is not uncommon, and the presence of these atypical features is consistent with neuropathological observations that ALS is a multisystem disorder. ALS-Plus syndrome is associated with increased risk for poor survival and the presence of a pathogenic mutation.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; survival; genetics; oculomotor; extrapyramidal; cerebellar; autonomic; cognitive
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurological disease with no effective treatment. Here we report the results of a moderate-scale sequencing study aimed at identifying new genes contributing to predisposition for ALS. We performed whole exome sequencing of 2,874 ALS patients and compared them to 6,405 controls. Several known ALS genes were found to be associated, and the non-canonical IκB kinase family TANK-Binding Kinase 1 (TBK1) was identified as an ALS gene. TBK1 is known to bind to and phosphorylate a number of proteins involved in innate immunity and autophagy, including optineurin (OPTN) and p62 (SQSTM1/sequestosome), both of which have also been implicated in ALS. These observations reveal a key role of the autophagic pathway in ALS and suggest specific targets for therapeutic intervention.
We investigated whether chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion (C9orf72 expansion) size in peripheral DNA was associated with clinical differences in frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) linked to C9orf72 repeat expansion mutations. A novel quantification workflow was developed to measure C9orf72 expansion size by Southern blot densitometry in a cross-sectional cohort of C9orf72 expansion carriers with FTD (n= 39), ALS (n= 33), both (n=35), or who are unaffected (n= 21). Multivariate linear regressions were performed to assess whether C9orf72 expansion size from peripheral DNA was associated with clinical phenotype, age of disease onset, disease duration and age at death. Mode values of C9orf72 expansion size were significantly shorter in FTD compared to ALS (p=0.0001) but were not associated with age at onset in either FTD or ALS. A multivariate regression model correcting for patient’s age at DNA collection and disease phenotype revealed that C9orf72 expansion size is significantly associated with shorter disease duration (p=0.0107) for individuals with FTD, but not with ALS. Despite considerable somatic instability of the C9orf72 expansion, semi-automated expansion size measurements demonstrated an inverse relationship between C9orf72 expansion size and disease duration in patients with FTD. Our finding suggests that C9orf72 repeat size may be a molecular disease modifier in FTD linked to hexanucleotide repeat expansion.
C9orf72; FTD; ALS; Southern blot; Expansion
Human thought and language rely on the brain's ability to combine conceptual information. This fundamental process supports the construction of complex concepts from basic constituents. For example, both “jacket” and “plaid” can be represented as individual concepts, but they can also be integrated to form the more complex representation “plaid jacket.” Although this process is central to the expression and comprehension of language, little is known about its neural basis. Here we present evidence for a neuroanatomic model of conceptual combination from three experiments. We predicted that the highly integrative region of heteromodal association cortex in the angular gyrus would be critical for conceptual combination, given its anatomic connectivity and its strong association with semantic memory in functional neuroimaging studies. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that the process of combining concepts to form meaningful representations specifically modulates neural activity in the angular gyrus of healthy adults, independent of the modality of the semantic content integrated. We also found that individual differences in the structure of the angular gyrus in healthy adults are related to variability in behavioral performance on the conceptual combination task. Finally, in a group of patients with neurodegenerative disease, we found that the degree of atrophy in the angular gyrus is specifically related to impaired performance on combinatorial processing. These converging anatomic findings are consistent with a critical role for the angular gyrus in conceptual combination.
angular gyrus; combinatorial semantics; conceptual combination; compositionality; semantic integration; semantic memory
To determine the prognostic utility of tauopathy-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in sporadic behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD).
Eighty-one patients with sporadic bvFTD were genotyped for tauopathy-associated SNPs at rs8070723 (microtubule-associated protein tau [MAPT]) and rs1768208 (myelin-associated oligodendrocyte basic protein [MOBP]). We performed a retrospective case-control study comparing age at onset and disease duration between carriers of ≥1 polymorphism allele and noncarriers for these SNPs. Subanalyses were performed for autopsied subgroups with tauopathy (n = 20) and TDP-43 proteinopathy (n = 12). To identify a potential biological basis for disease duration, neuroimaging measures of white matter integrity were evaluated (n = 37).
Carriers of risk allele (T) in rs1768208 (i.e., MOBP RA+) had a shorter median disease duration (TC/TT = 5.5 years, CC = 9.5 years; p = 0.02). This was also found in the subset of cases with autopsy-confirmed tauopathies (p = 0.04) but not with TDP-43 proteinopathies (p > 0.1). By comparison, polymorphisms at rs8070723 (MAPT) had no effect on disease duration (p > 0.1), although carriers of protective allele (G) in rs8070723 had a younger median age at onset (AG/GG = 54.5 years, AA = 58 years; p < 0.01). MOBP RA+ patients had increased radial diffusivity in the superior corona radiata and midbrain, and reduced fractional anisotropy in the superior corona radiata as well as superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi compared with noncarriers (p < 0.01).
The rs1768208 risk polymorphism in MOBP may have prognostic value in bvFTD. MOBP RA+ patients have more severe white matter degeneration in bvFTD that may contribute to shorter disease duration. Future studies are needed to help confirm these findings.
We examined narrative discourse in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to assess the role of executive functioning in support of language and the neuroanatomical basis for such support.
We analyzed a semistructured speech sample in 26 patients with ALS and 19 healthy seniors for narrative discourse features of coherence. Regression analyses related a measure of discourse coherence (“local connectedness”) to gray matter atrophy and reduced white matter fractional anisotropy.
Patients with ALS were impaired relative to controls on measures of discourse adequacy, including local connectedness and maintenance of the theme. These discourse measures were related to measures of executive functioning but not to motor functioning. Regressions related local connectedness to gray matter atrophy in ventral and dorsal prefrontal regions and to reduced fractional anisotropy in white matter tracts mediating projections between prefrontal regions.
Patients with ALS exhibit deficits in their ability to organize narrative discourse. These deficits appear to be related in part to executive limitations. Consistent with the hypothesis that ALS is a multisystem disorder, this deficit is related to disease in prefrontal regions.
Corticobasal syndrome (CBS) is characterized by asymmetric involuntary movements including rigidity, tremor, dystonia, and myoclonus, and often associated with apraxia, cortical sensory deficits, and alien limb phenomena. Additionally, there are various nonmotor (cognitive and language) deficits. CBS is associated with several distinct histopathologies, including corticobasal degeneration, other forms of tau-related frontotemporal lobar degeneration such as progressive supranuclear palsy, and Alzheimer disease. Accurate antemortem diagnosis of underlying pathology in CBS is challenging, though certain clinical and imaging findings may be helpful. Five recent advances in the understanding of CBS are reviewed, including clinical and pathologic features, imaging and CSF biomarkers, the role of specific genes, and the concept of a spectrum of tauopathies.
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement and cognition, definitively diagnosed only at autopsy. Here we conduct a GWAS in CBD cases (n = 152) and 3,311 controls, and 67 CBD cases and 439 controls in a replication stage. Associations with meta-analysis were 17q21 at MAPT (P = 1.42 × 10−12), 8p12 at lnc-KIF13B-1, a long non-coding RNA (rs643472; P = 3.41 × 10−8), and 2p22 at SOS1 (rs963731; P = 1.76 × 10−7). Testing for association of CBD with top PSP GWAS SNPs identified associations at MOBP (3p22; rs1768208; P = 2.07 × 10−7) and MAPT H1c (17q21; rs242557; P = 7.91 × 10−6). We previously reported SNP/transcript level associations with rs8070723/MAPT, rs242557/MAPT, and rs1768208/MOBP and herein identified association with rs963731/SOS1. We identify new CBD susceptibility loci and show that CBD and PSP share a genetic risk factor other than MAPT, at 3p22 MOBP (myelin-associated oligodendrocytic protein).
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement and cognition, definitively diagnosed only at autopsy. Here, we conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in CBD cases (n=152) and 3,311 controls, and 67 CBD cases and 439 controls in a replication stage. Associations with meta-analysis were 17q21 at MAPT (P=1.42 × 10−12), 8p12 at lnc-KIF13B-1, a long non-coding RNA (rs643472; P=3.41 × 10−8), and 2p22 at SOS1 (rs963731; P=1.76 × 10−7). Testing for association of CBD with top progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) GWAS single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified associations at MOBP (3p22; rs1768208; P=2.07 × 10−7) and MAPT H1c (17q21; rs242557; P=7.91 × 10−6). We previously reported SNP/transcript level associations with rs8070723/MAPT, rs242557/MAPT, and rs1768208/MOBP and herein identified association with rs963731/SOS1. We identify new CBD susceptibility loci and show that CBD and PSP share a genetic risk factor other than MAPT at 3p22 MOBP (myelin-associated oligodendrocyte basic protein).
Corticobasal degeneration is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that can only be definitively diagnosed by autopsy. Here, Kouri et al. conduct a genome-wide-association study and identify two genetic susceptibility loci 17q21 (MAPT) and 3p12 (MOBP), and a novel susceptibility locus at 8p12.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a complex disorder characterised by a broad range of clinical manifestations, differential pathological signatures, and genetic variability. Mutations in three genes—MAPT, GRN, and C9orf72—have been associated with FTD. We sought to identify novel genetic risk loci associated with the disorder.
We did a two-stage genome-wide association study on clinical FTD, analysing samples from 3526 patients with FTD and 9402 healthy controls. All participants had European ancestry. In the discovery phase (samples from 2154 patients with FTD and 4308 controls), we did separate association analyses for each FTD subtype (behavioural variant FTD, semantic dementia, progressive non-fluent aphasia, and FTD overlapping with motor neuron disease [FTD-MND]), followed by a meta-analysis of the entire dataset. We carried forward replication of the novel suggestive loci in an independent sample series (samples from 1372 patients and 5094 controls) and then did joint phase and brain expression and methylation quantitative trait loci analyses for the associated (p<5 × 10−8) and suggestive single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
We identified novel associations exceeding the genome-wide significance threshold (p<5 × 10−8) that encompassed the HLA locus at 6p21.3 in the entire cohort. We also identified a potential novel locus at 11q14, encompassing RAB38/CTSC, for the behavioural FTD subtype. Analysis of expression and methylation quantitative trait loci data suggested that these loci might affect expression and methylation incis.
Our findings suggest that immune system processes (link to 6p21.3) and possibly lysosomal and autophagy pathways (link to 11q14) are potentially involved in FTD. Our findings need to be replicated to better define the association of the newly identified loci with disease and possibly to shed light on the pathomechanisms contributing to FTD.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and National Institute on Aging, the Wellcome/ MRC Centre on Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Davunetide (AL-108, NAP) is an eightamino acid peptide that promotes microtubule stability and decreases tau phosphorylation in pre-clinical studies. Since PSP is tightly linked to tau pathology, davunetide could be an effective treatment for PSP.The goals of this study were to evaluate the efficacy and safety of davunetide in PSP.
A phase 2/3 double-blind, parallel group, clinical trial of davunetide 30 mg or placebo (randomized 1:1) administered intranasally twice daily for 52 weeks was conducted at 48centers. Participants met modifiedNNIPPS criteria for possible or probable PSP. Co-primary endpointswere the change from baseline in PSP Rating Scale (PSPRS) and Schwab and England ADL(SEADL) scale at up to 52 weeks. Data from all individuals who received at least one dose of medication and had a post-baseline efficacy assessment were compared using a rank-based method.Secondary outcomes included the Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) and the change in regional brain volumeon MRI. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT01110720.
360 participants were screened, 313 were randomized and 243 (77.6%) completed the study. There were no group differences in PSPRS (mean difference: 0.49 [95% CI: −1.5, 2.5], p = 0.72) or SEADL (1% [−2, 4%], p = 0.76) change from baseline (CFB) and mean 52 week CFB PSPRS scores were similar between the davunetide (11.3 [9.8,12.8]) and placebo groups (10.9 [9.1, 13.0]). There wereno differences in any of the secondary or exploratory endpoints. There were 11deaths in the davunetide group and tenin the placebo group. There were more nasal adverse events in the davunetide group.
Davunetide is well tolerated but is not an effective treatment for PSP. Clinical trials of disease modifying therapy are feasible in PSP and should be pursued with other promising tau-directed therapies.
The scope of reference of a word's meaning can be highly variable. We present a novel paradigm to investigate the flexible interpretation of word meaning. We focus on quantifiers such as “many” or “few,” a class of words that depends on number knowledge but can be interpreted in a flexible manner. Healthy young adults performed a truth value judgment task on pictorial arrays of varying amounts of blue and yellow circles, deciding whether the sentence “Many/few of the circles are yellow” was an adequate description of the stimulus. The study consisted of two experiments, one focusing on “many,” one on “few.” Each experiment had three blocks. In a first “baseline” block, each individual's criterion for “many” and “few” was assessed. In a second “adaptation” block, subjects received feedback about their decisions that was different from their initial judgments in an effort to evaluate the flexibility of a subject's interpretation. A third “test” block assessed whether adaptation of quantifier meaning induced in block 2 then was generalized to alter a subject's baseline meaning for “many” and “few.” In Experiment 1, a proportion of yellow circles as small as 40% was reinforced as “many”; in Experiment 2, a proportion of yellow circles as large as 60% was reinforced as “few.” Subjects learned the new criterion for “many” in Experiment 1, which also affected their criterion for “few” although it had never been mentioned. Likewise, in Experiment 2, subjects changed their criterion for “few,” with a comparable effect on the criterion for “many” which was not mentioned. Thus, the meaning of relational quantifiers like “many” and “few” is flexible and can be adapted. Most importantly, adapting the criterion for one quantifier (e.g., “many”) also appeared to affect the reciprocal quantifier (in this case, “few”). Implications of this result for psychological interventions and for investigations of the neurobiology of the language-number interface are discussed.
semantics; quantifiers; decision-making; numerosity; flexibility; learning
Quantitative examinations of speech production in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are rare. To identify language features minimally confounded by a motor disorder, we investigated linguistic and motor sources of impaired sentence expression in ALS, and we related deficits to gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) MRI abnormalities. We analyzed a semi-structured speech sample in 26 ALS patients and 19 healthy seniors for motor- and language-related deficits. Regression analyses related grammaticality to GM atrophy and reduced WM fractional anisotropy (FA). Results demonstrated that ALS patients were impaired relative to controls on quantity of speech, speech rate, speech articulation errors, and grammaticality. Speech rate and articulation errors were related to the patients’ motor impairment, while grammatical difficulty was independent of motor difficulty. This was confirmed in subgroups without dysarthria and without executive deficits. Regressions related grammatical expression to GM atrophy in left inferior frontal and anterior temporal regions and to reduced FA in superior longitudinal and inferior frontal-occipital fasciculi. In conclusion, patients with ALS exhibit multifactorial deficits in sentence expression. They demonstrate a deficit in grammatical expression that is independent of their motor disorder. Impaired grammatical expression is related to disease in a network of brain regions associated with syntactic processing.
Dementia; aphasia; cognitive neuropsychology; language; speech
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a progressive disorder of language that is increasingly recognised as an important presentation of a specific spectrum of neurodegenerative conditions.
In an era of etiologically specific treatments for neurodegenerative conditions, it is crucial to establish the histopathologic basis for PPA. In this review, I discuss biomarkers for identifying the pathology underlying PPA.
Clinical syndromes suggest a probabilistic association between a specific PPA variant and an underlying pathology, but there are also many exceptions. A considerable body of work with biomarkers is now emerging as an important addition to clinical diagnosis. I review genetic, neuroimaging and biofluid studies that can help determine the pathologic basis for PPA.
Together with careful clinical examination, there is great promise that supplemental biomarker assessments will lead to accurate diagnosis of the pathology associated with PPA during life and serve as the basis for clinical trials in this spectrum of disease.
Frontotemporal degeneration; Primary progressive aphasia; Biomarker
C9orf72 promoter hypermethylation inhibits the accumulation of pathologies which have been postulated to be neurotoxic. We tested here whether C9orf72 hypermethylation is associated with prolonged disease in C9orf72 mutation carriers. C9orf72 methylation was quantified from brain or blood using methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme digest-qPCR in a cross-sectional cohort of 118 C9orf72 repeat expansion carriers and 19 non-carrier family members. Multivariate regression models were used to determine whether C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with age at onset, disease duration, age at death, or hexanucleotide repeat expansion size. Permutation analysis was performed to determine whether C9orf72 methylation is heritable. We observed a high correlation between C9orf72 methylation across tissues including cerebellum, frontal cortex, spinal cord and peripheral blood. While C9orf72 methylation was not significantly different between ALS and FTD and did not predict age at onset, brain and blood C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with later age at death in FTD (brain: β = 0.18, p = 0.006; blood: β = 0.15, p < 0.001), and blood C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with longer disease duration in FTD (β = 0.03, p = 0.007). Furthermore, C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with smaller hexanucleotide repeat length (β = −16.69, p = 0.033). Finally, analysis of pedigrees with multiple mutation carriers demonstrated a significant association between C9orf72 methylation and family relatedness (p < 0.0001). C9orf72 hypermethylation is associated with prolonged disease in C9orf72 repeat expansion carriers with FTD. The attenuated clinical phenotype associated with C9orf72 hypermethylation suggests that slower clinical progression in FTD is associated with reduced expression of mutant C9orf72. These results support the hypothesis that expression of the hexanucleotide repeat expansion is associated with a toxic gain of function.
Neurodegeneration; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Epigenetics
We often estimate an unknown value based on available relevant information, a process known as cognitive estimation. In this study, we assess the cognitive and neuroanatomic basis for quantitative estimation by examining deficits in patients with focal neurodegenerative disease in frontal and parietal cortex. Executive function and number knowledge are key components in cognitive estimation. Prefrontal cortex has been implicated in multilevel reasoning and planning processes, and parietal cortex has been associated with number knowledge required for such estimations. We administered the Biber cognitive estimation test (BCET) to assess cognitive estimation in 22 patients with prefrontal disease due to behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), to 17 patients with parietal disease due to corticobasal syndrome (CBS) or posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and 11 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Both bvFTD and CBS/PCA patients had significantly more difficulty with cognitive estimation than controls. MCI were not impaired on BCET relative to controls. Regression analyses related BCET performance to gray matter atrophy in right lateral prefrontal and orbital frontal cortices in bvFTD, and to atrophy in right inferior parietal cortex, right insula, and fusiform cortices in CBS/PCA. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that a frontal-parietal network plays a crucial role in cognitive estimation.
cognitive estimation; behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration; corticobasal syndrome; posterior cortical atrophy; prefrontal cortices; parietal cortices
Some extent of ambiguity is ubiquitous in everyday conversations. For example, words have multiple meaning and very common pronouns, like “he” and “she” (anaphoric pronouns), have little meaning on their own and refer to a noun that has been previously introduced in the discourse. Ambiguity triggers a decision process that is not a subroutine of language processing but rather a more general domain resource. Therefore non-aphasic patients with limited decision-making capability can encounter severe limitation in language processing due to extra linguistic limitations. In the present study, we test patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration (bvFTD), focusing on anaphora as a paradigmatic example of ambiguity resolution in the linguistic domain. bvFTD is characterized by gray matter (GM) atrophy in prefrontal cortex, but relative sparing of peri-Sylvian cortex. A group of patients with parietal disease due to corticobasal syndrome (CBS) was also tested here in order to investigate the specific role of prefrontal cortex in the task employed in the current study. Participants were presented with a pair of sentences in which the first sentence contained two nouns while the second contained a pronoun. In the experimental (ambiguous) condition, both nouns are plausible referents of the pronoun, thus requiring decision-making resources. The results revealed that bvFTD patients are significantly less accurate than healthy seniors in identifying the correct referent of a pronoun in the ambiguous condition, although CBS patients were as accurate as healthy seniors. Imaging analyses related bvFTD patients’ performance to GM atrophy in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). These results suggest that bvFTD patients have difficulties in decision processes that involve the resolution of an ambiguity.
anaphoric pronouns; decision-making; prefrontal cortex; parietal cortex
Background: Apathy, the major manifestation of impaired goal-directed behavior (GDB), is the most common neuropsychiatric syndrome associated with behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration (bvFTD). The behavioral and biological mechanisms of apathy, however, are not well understood. We hypothesized that GDB has multiple components—including at least initiation, planning and motivation—and that GDB is supported by a network of multiple frontal brain regions. In this study, we examined this hypothesis by evaluating the selective breakdown of GDB in bvFTD, and relating these deficits to gray matter (GM) atrophy and white matter (WM) integrity.
Methods: Eighteen apathetic bvFTD participants and 17 healthy controls completed the Philadelphia Apathy Computerized Test (PACT). This test quantifies each of three components of GDB hypothesized to contribute to apathy. We then used regression analyses to relate PACT scores to GM atrophy and reduced white matter (WM) fractional anisotropy (FA) in bvFTD.
Results: Compared to controls, bvFTD participants demonstrated significant impairments in each of the three hypothesized components of GDB that contribute to apathy. Regression analyses related each component to disease in specific GM structures and associated WM tracts. Poor initiation thus was related to GM atrophy in anterior cingulate and reduced FA in the cingulum. Planning impairment was related to GM atrophy in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and reduced FA in superior longitudinal fasciculus. Poor motivation was related to GM atrophy in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and reduced FA in uncinate fasciculus (UNC).
Conclusions: bvFTD patients have difficulty with initiation, planning and motivation components of GDB. These findings are consistent with the hypotheses that GDB encompasses at least three processes, that these are supported by a large-scale neural network within specific portions of the frontal lobe, and that degradation of any one of these prefrontal regions in bvFTD may contribute to apathy.
frontotemporal degeneration; MRI; DWI; executive function; motivation; apathy
Apathy, a reduction in goal-directed behavior (GDB), affects 90% of individuals with behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration, which is a common cause of early onset neurodegenerative disease. The cognitive and neural impairments associated with apathy make it difficult to initiate, plan, and self-motivate activities toward a specific goal, such as dressing or bathing. These impairments are associated with significant decline in functional ability, caregiver burden, and increased cost of care due to early institutionalization. The current article reviews the evidence suggesting that apathy arises from the interruption of one or any combination of three GDB processes: initiation, planning, and motivation. From this perspective, three subtypes of apathy related to dysfunction at the level of GDB and the corresponding neuroanatomy are explored. Further research is required to confirm and measure these subtypes of apathy for use in clinical and research settings. A more precise classification of apathy by subtype will allow implementation of the most appropriate person-centered, individualized therapy.