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1.  Altered brain mechanisms of emotion processing in pre-manifest Huntington's disease 
Brain  2012;135(4):1165-1179.
Huntington's disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes motor, cognitive and psychiatric impairment, including an early decline in ability to recognize emotional states in others. The pathophysiology underlying the earliest manifestations of the disease is not fully understood; the objective of our study was to clarify this. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate changes in brain mechanisms of emotion recognition in pre-manifest carriers of the abnormal Huntington's disease gene (subjects with pre-manifest Huntington's disease): 16 subjects with pre-manifest Huntington's disease and 14 control subjects underwent 1.5 tesla magnetic resonance scanning while viewing pictures of facial expressions from the Ekman and Friesen series. Disgust, anger and happiness were chosen as emotions of interest. Disgust is the emotion in which recognition deficits have most commonly been detected in Huntington's disease; anger is the emotion in which impaired recognition was detected in the largest behavioural study of emotion recognition in pre-manifest Huntington's disease to date; and happiness is a positive emotion to contrast with disgust and anger. Ekman facial expressions were also used to quantify emotion recognition accuracy outside the scanner and structural magnetic resonance imaging with voxel-based morphometry was used to assess the relationship between emotion recognition accuracy and regional grey matter volume. Emotion processing in pre-manifest Huntington's disease was associated with reduced neural activity for all three emotions in partially separable functional networks. Furthermore, the Huntington's disease-associated modulation of disgust and happiness processing was negatively correlated with genetic markers of pre-manifest disease progression in distributed, largely extrastriatal networks. The modulated disgust network included insulae, cingulate cortices, pre- and postcentral gyri, precunei, cunei, bilateral putamena, right pallidum, right thalamus, cerebellum, middle frontal, middle occipital, right superior and left inferior temporal gyri, and left superior parietal lobule. The modulated happiness network included postcentral gyri, left caudate, right cingulate cortex, right superior and inferior parietal lobules, and right superior frontal, middle temporal, middle occipital and precentral gyri. These effects were not driven merely by striatal dysfunction. We did not find equivalent associations between brain structure and emotion recognition, and the pre-manifest Huntington's disease cohort did not have a behavioural deficit in out-of-scanner emotion recognition relative to controls. In addition, we found increased neural activity in the pre-manifest subjects in response to all three emotions in frontal regions, predominantly in the middle frontal gyri. Overall, these findings suggest that pathophysiological effects of Huntington's disease may precede the development of overt clinical symptoms and detectable cerebral atrophy.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws024
PMCID: PMC3326253  PMID: 22505631
emotion; Huntington's disease; neurodegenerative disorders; cognitive impairment; functional MRI
2.  Multispectral brain morphometry in Tourette syndrome persisting into adulthood 
Brain  2010;133(12):3661-3675.
Tourette syndrome is a childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorder with a high prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity and obsessive-compulsive disorder co-morbidities. Structural changes have been found in frontal cortex and striatum in children and adolescents. A limited number of morphometric studies in Tourette syndrome persisting into adulthood suggest ongoing structural alterations affecting frontostriatal circuits. Using cortical thickness estimation and voxel-based analysis of T1- and diffusion-weighted structural magnetic resonance images, we examined 40 adults with Tourette syndrome in comparison with 40 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Patients with Tourette syndrome showed relative grey matter volume reduction in orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices bilaterally. Cortical thinning extended into the limbic mesial temporal lobe. The grey matter changes were modulated additionally by the presence of co-morbidities and symptom severity. Prefrontal cortical thickness reduction correlated negatively with tic severity, while volume increase in primary somatosensory cortex depended on the intensity of premonitory sensations. Orbitofrontal cortex volume changes were further associated with abnormal water diffusivity within grey matter. White matter analysis revealed changes in fibre coherence in patients with Tourette syndrome within anterior parts of the corpus callosum. The severity of motor tics and premonitory urges had an impact on the integrity of tracts corresponding to cortico-cortical and cortico-subcortical connections. Our results provide empirical support for a patho-aetiological model of Tourette syndrome based on developmental abnormalities, with perturbation of compensatory systems marking persistence of symptoms into adulthood. We interpret the symptom severity related grey matter volume increase in distinct functional brain areas as evidence of ongoing structural plasticity. The convergence of evidence from volume and water diffusivity imaging strengthens the validity of our findings and attests to the value of a novel multimodal combination of volume and cortical thickness estimations that provides unique and complementary information by exploiting their differential sensitivity to structural change.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq300
PMCID: PMC2995885  PMID: 21071387
Tourette syndrome; voxel-based cortical thickness; voxel-based morphometry; mean diffusivity; fractional anisotropy
3.  Voxel-based morphometry reveals reduced grey matter volume in the temporal cortex of developmental prosopagnosics 
Brain  2009;132(12):3443-3455.
Individuals with developmental prosopagnosia exhibit severe and lasting difficulties in recognizing faces despite the absence of apparent brain abnormalities. We used voxel-based morphometry to investigate whether developmental prosopagnosics show subtle neuroanatomical differences from controls. An analysis based on segmentation of T1-weighted images from 17 developmental prosopagnosics and 18 matched controls revealed that they had reduced grey matter volume in the right anterior inferior temporal lobe and in the superior temporal sulcus/middle temporal gyrus bilaterally. In addition, a voxel-based morphometry analysis based on the segmentation of magnetization transfer parameter maps showed that developmental prosopagnosics also had reduced grey matter volume in the right middle fusiform gyrus and the inferior temporal gyrus. Multiple regression analyses relating three distinct behavioural component scores, derived from a principal component analysis, to grey matter volume revealed an association between a component related to facial identity and grey matter volume in the left superior temporal sulcus/middle temporal gyrus plus the right middle fusiform gyrus/inferior temporal gyrus. Grey matter volume in the lateral occipital cortex was associated with component scores related to object recognition tasks. Our results demonstrate that developmental prosopagnosics have reduced grey matter volume in several regions known to respond selectively to faces and provide new evidence that integrity of these areas relates to face recognition ability.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp271
PMCID: PMC2792372  PMID: 19887506
developmental prosopagnosia; voxel-based morphometry; face recognition; object recognition; perception; temporal cortex
4.  Functional compensation of motor function in pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease 
Brain  2009;132(6):1624-1632.
Involuntary choreiform movements are a clinical hallmark of Huntington's disease. Studies in clinically affected patients suggest a shift of motor activations to parietal cortices in response to progressive neurodegeneration. Here, we studied pre-symptomatic gene carriers to examine the compensatory mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon of retained motor function in the presence of degenerative change. Fifteen pre-symptomatic gene carriers and 12 matched controls performed button presses paced by a metronome at either 0.5 or 2 Hz with four fingers of the right hand whilst being scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging. Subjects pressed buttons either in the order of a previously learnt 10-item finger sequence, from left to right, or kept still. Error rates ranged from 2% to 7% in the pre-symptomatic gene carriers and from 0.5% to 4% in controls, depending on the condition. No significant difference in task performance was found between groups for any of the conditions. Activations in the supplementary motor area (SMA) and superior parietal lobe differed with gene status. Compared with healthy controls, gene carriers showed greater activations of left caudal SMA with all movement conditions. Activations correlated with increasing speed of movement were greater the closer the gene carriers were to estimated clinical diagnosis, defined by the onset of unequivocal motor signs. Activations associated with increased movement complexity (i.e. with the pre-learnt 10-item sequence) decreased in the rostral SMA with nearing diagnostic onset. The left superior parietal lobe showed reduced activation with increased movement complexity in gene carriers compared with controls, and in the right superior parietal lobe showed greater activations with all but the most demanding movements. We identified a complex pattern of motor compensation in pre-symptomatic gene carriers. The results show that preclinical compensation goes beyond a simple shift of activity from premotor to parietal regions involving multiple compensatory mechanisms in executive and cognitive motor areas. Critically, the pattern of motor compensation is flexible depending on the actual task demands on motor control.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp081
PMCID: PMC2685920  PMID: 19369489
pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease; fMRI; motor control
5.  Automatic classification of MR scans in Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2008;131(Pt 3):681-689.
To be diagnostically useful, structural MRI must reliably distinguish Alzheimer’s disease (AD) from normal aging in individual scans. Recent advances in statistical learning theory have led to the application of support vector machines to MRI for detection of a variety of disease states. The aims of this study were to assess how successfully support vector machines assigned individual diagnoses and to determine whether data-sets combined from multiple scanners and different centres could be used to obtain effective classification of scans. We used linear support vector machines to classify the grey matter segment of T1-weighted MR scans from pathologically proven AD patients and cognitively normal elderly individuals obtained from two centres with different scanning equipment. Because the clinical diagnosis of mild AD is difficult we also tested the ability of support vector machines to differentiate control scans from patients without post-mortem confirmation. Finally we sought to use these methods to differentiate scans between patients suffering from AD from those with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Up to 96% of pathologically verified AD patients were correctly classified using whole brain images. Data from different centres were successfully combined achieving comparable results from the separate analyses. Importantly, data from one centre could be used to train a support vector machine to accurately differentiate AD and normal ageing scans obtained from another centre with different subjects and different scanner equipment. Patients with mild, clinically probable AD and age/sex matched controls were correctly separated in 89% of cases which is compatible with published diagnosis rates in the best clinical centres. This method correctly assigned 89% of patients with post-mortem confirmed diagnosis of either AD or frontotemporal lobar degeneration to their respective group. Our study leads to three conclusions: Firstly, support vector machines successfully separate patients with AD from healthy aging subjects. Secondly, they perform well in the differential diagnosis of two different forms of dementia. Thirdly, the method is robust and can be generalized across different centres. This suggests an important role for computer based diagnostic image analysis for clinical practice.
doi:10.1093/brain/awm319
PMCID: PMC2579744  PMID: 18202106
Alzheimer’s; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; linear support vectors; classification

Results 1-6 (6)