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1.  Handedness and language learning disability differentially distribute in progressive aphasia variants 
Brain  2013;136(11):3461-3473.
Primary progressive aphasia is a neurodegenerative clinical syndrome that presents in adulthood with an isolated, progressive language disorder. Three main clinical/anatomical variants have been described, each associated with distinctive pathology. A high frequency of neurodevelopmental learning disability in primary progressive aphasia has been reported. Because the disorder is heterogeneous with different patterns of cognitive, anatomical and biological involvement, we sought to identify whether learning disability had a predilection for one or more of the primary progressive aphasia subtypes. We screened the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center's primary progressive aphasia cohort (n = 198) for history of language-related learning disability as well as hand preference, which has associations with learning disability. The study included logopenic (n = 48), non-fluent (n = 54) and semantic (n = 96) variant primary progressive aphasias. We investigated whether the presence of learning disability or non-right-handedness was associated with differential effects on demographic, neuropsychological and neuroimaging features of primary progressive aphasia. We showed that a high frequency of learning disability was present only in the logopenic group (χ2 = 15.17, P < 0.001) and (χ2 = 11.51, P < 0.001) compared with semantic and non-fluent populations. In this group, learning disability was associated with earlier onset of disease, more isolated language symptoms, and more focal pattern of left posterior temporoparietal atrophy. Non-right-handedness was instead over-represented in the semantic group, at nearly twice the prevalence of the general population (χ2 = 6.34, P = 0.01). Within semantic variant primary progressive aphasia the right-handed and non-right-handed cohorts appeared homogeneous on imaging, cognitive profile, and structural analysis of brain symmetry. Lastly, the non-fluent group showed no increase in learning disability or non-right-handedness. Logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia and developmental dyslexia both manifest with phonological disturbances and posterior temporal involvement. Learning disability might confer vulnerability of this network to early-onset, focal Alzheimer’s pathology. Left-handedness has been described as a proxy for atypical brain hemispheric lateralization. As non-right-handedness was increased only in the semantic group, anomalous lateralization mechanisms might instead be related to frontotemporal lobar degeneration with abnormal TARDBP. Taken together, this study suggests that neurodevelopmental signatures impart differential trajectories towards neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC3808687  PMID: 24056533
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; dementia aphasia; case control study; risk factors in epidemiology
2.  Anterior temporal lobe degeneration produces widespread network-driven dysfunction 
Brain  2013;136(10):2979-2991.
The neural organization of semantic memory remains much debated. A ‘distributed-only’ view contends that semantic knowledge is represented within spatially distant, modality-selective primary and association cortices. Observations in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia have inspired an alternative model featuring the anterior temporal lobe as an amodal hub that supports semantic knowledge by linking distributed modality-selective regions. Direct evidence has been lacking, however, to support intrinsic functional interactions between an anterior temporal lobe hub and upstream sensory regions in humans. Here, we examined the neural networks supporting semantic knowledge by performing a multimodal brain imaging study in healthy subjects and patients with semantic variant primary progressive aphasia. In healthy subjects, the anterior temporal lobe showed intrinsic connectivity to an array of modality-selective primary and association cortices. Patients showed focal anterior temporal lobe degeneration but also reduced physiological integrity throughout distributed modality-selective regions connected with the anterior temporal lobe in healthy controls. Physiological deficits outside the anterior temporal lobe correlated with scores on semantic tasks and with anterior temporal subregion atrophy, following domain-specific and connectivity-based predictions. The findings provide a neurophysiological basis for the theory that semantic processing is orchestrated through interactions between a critical anterior temporal lobe hub and modality-selective processing nodes.
PMCID: PMC3857932  PMID: 24072486
anterior temporal lobe; semantic dementia; cognition; semantics; functional neuroimaging
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC3187537  PMID: 21666264
primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; logopenic progressive aphasia; diffusion tensor imaging
4.  Connected speech production in three variants of primary progressive aphasia 
Brain  2010;133(7):2069-2088.
Primary progressive aphasia is a clinical syndrome defined by progressive deficits isolated to speech and/or language, and can be classified into non-fluent, semantic and logopenic variants based on motor speech, linguistic and cognitive features. The connected speech of patients with primary progressive aphasia has often been dichotomized simply as ‘fluent’ or ‘non-fluent’, however fluency is a multidimensional construct that encompasses features such as speech rate, phrase length, articulatory agility and syntactic structure, which are not always impacted in parallel. In this study, our first objective was to improve the characterization of connected speech production in each variant of primary progressive aphasia, by quantifying speech output along a number of motor speech and linguistic dimensions simultaneously. Secondly, we aimed to determine the neuroanatomical correlates of changes along these different dimensions. We recorded, transcribed and analysed speech samples for 50 patients with primary progressive aphasia, along with neurodegenerative and normal control groups. Patients were scanned with magnetic resonance imaging, and voxel-based morphometry was used to identify regions where atrophy correlated significantly with motor speech and linguistic features. Speech samples in patients with the non-fluent variant were characterized by slow rate, distortions, syntactic errors and reduced complexity. In contrast, patients with the semantic variant exhibited normal rate and very few speech or syntactic errors, but showed increased proportions of closed class words, pronouns and verbs, and higher frequency nouns, reflecting lexical retrieval deficits. In patients with the logopenic variant, speech rate (a common proxy for fluency) was intermediate between the other two variants, but distortions and syntactic errors were less common than in the non-fluent variant, while lexical access was less impaired than in the semantic variant. Reduced speech rate was linked with atrophy to a wide range of both anterior and posterior language regions, but specific deficits had more circumscribed anatomical correlates. Frontal regions were associated with motor speech and syntactic processes, anterior and inferior temporal regions with lexical retrieval, and posterior temporal regions with phonological errors and several other types of disruptions to fluency. These findings demonstrate that a multidimensional quantification of connected speech production is necessary to characterize the differences between the speech patterns of each primary progressive aphasic variant adequately, and to reveal associations between particular aspects of connected speech and specific components of the neural network for speech production.
PMCID: PMC2892940  PMID: 20542982
primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; logopenic progressive aphasia; speech production
5.  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.
PMCID: PMC2801321  PMID: 19759202
semantic dementia; semantic knowledge; diffusion tensor-based tractography; functional MRI; voxel-based morphometry
6.  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.
PMCID: PMC2638692  PMID: 19022856
semantic dementia; dyslexia; parietal lobe; voxel-based morphometry; functional MRI
7.  White matter damage in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease measured by diffusion MRI 
Brain  2009;132(9):2579-2592.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer's disease are sometimes difficult to differentiate clinically because of overlapping symptoms. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurements of fractional anisotropy (FA) can be useful in distinguishing the different patterns of white matter degradation between the two dementias. In this study, we performed MRI scans in a 4 Tesla MRI machine including T1-weighted structural images and diffusion tensor images in 18 patients with FTD, 18 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 19 cognitively normal (CN) controls. FA was measured selectively in specific fibre tracts (including corpus callosum, cingulum, uncinate and corticospinal tracts) as well as globally in a voxel-by-voxel analysis. Patients with FTD were associated with reductions of FA in frontal and temporal regions including the anterior corpus callosum (P < 0.001), bilateral anterior (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.005), descending (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.003) cingulum tracts, and uncinate tracts (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.005), compared to controls. Patients with Alzheimer's disease were associated with reductions of FA in parietal, temporal and frontal regions including the left anterior (P = 0.003) and posterior (P = 0.002) cingulum tracts, bilateral descending cingulum tracts (P < 0.001) and left uncinate tracts (P < 0.001) compared to controls. When compared with Alzheimer's disease, FTD was associated with greater reductions of FA in frontal brain regions, whereas no region in Alzheimer's disease showed greater reductions of FA when compared to FTD. In conclusion, the regional patterns of anisotropy reduction in FTD and Alzheimer's disease compared to controls suggest a characteristic distribution of white matter degradation in each disease. Moreover, the white matter degradation seems to be more prominent in FTD than in Alzheimer's disease. Taken together, the results suggest that white matter degradation measured with DTI may improve the diagnostic differentiation between FTD and Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC2732263  PMID: 19439421
Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal dementia; diffusion tensor imaging; diffusion tensor fibre tracking
8.  Structural anatomy of empathy in neurodegenerative disease 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2006;129(Pt 11):2945-2956.
Empathy is a complex social behaviour mediated by a network of brain structures. Recently, several functional imaging studies have investigated the neural basis of empathy, but few corroborative human lesion studies exist. Severe empathy loss is a common feature of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), and is also seen in other neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, the neuroanatomic basis of empathy was investigated in 123 patients with FTLD, Alzheimer's disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). IRI Empathic Concern and Perspective taking scores were correlated with structural MRI brain volume using voxel-based morphometry. Voxels in the right temporal pole, the right fusiform gyrus, the right caudate and right subcallosal gyrus correlated significantly with total empathy score (P < 0.05 after whole-brain correction for multiple comparisons). Empathy score correlated positively with the volume of right temporal structures in semantic dementia, and with subcallosal gyrus volume in frontotemporal dementia. These findings are consistent with previous research suggesting that a primarily right frontotemporal network of brain regions is involved in emotion processing, and highlights the roles of the right temporal pole and inferior frontal/striatal regions in regulating complex social interactions. This is the first large-scale lesion study to investigate the neural basis of empathy using correlational analytic methods. The results suggest that the right anterior temporal and medial frontal regions are essential for real-life empathic behaviour.
PMCID: PMC2562652  PMID: 17008334
dementia; empathy; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; temporal pole; VBM
9.  Different regional patterns of cortical thinning in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2007;130(Pt 4):1159-1166.
Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can be difficult to differentiate clinically because of overlapping symptoms. Distinguishing the two dementias based on volumetric measurements of brain atrophy with MRI has been only partially successful. Whether MRI measurements of cortical thinning improve the differentiation between Alzheimer’s disease and FTD is unclear. In this study, we measured cortical thickness using a set of automated tools (Freesurfer) to reconstruct the brain’s cortical surface from T1-weighted structural MRI data in 22 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, 19 patients with FTD and 23 cognitively normal subjects. The goals were to detect the characteristic patterns of cortical thinning in these two types of dementia, to test the relationship between cortical thickness and cognitive impairment, to determine if measurement of cortical thickness is better than that of cortical volume for differentiating between these dementias and normal ageing and improving the classification of Alzheimer’s disease and FTD based on neuropsychological scores alone. Compared to cognitively normal subjects, Alzheimer’s disease patients had a thinner cortex primarily in bilateral, frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes (P < 0.001), while FTD patients had a thinner cortex in bilateral, frontal and temporal regions and some thinning in inferior parietal regions and the posterior cingulate (P< 0.001). Compared to FTD patients, Alzheimer’s disease patients had a thinner cortex (P< 0.001) in parts of bilateral parietal and precuneus regions. Cognitive impairment was negatively correlated with cortical thickness of frontal, parietal and temporal lobes in Alzheimer’s disease, while similar correlations were not significant in FTD. Measurement of cortical thickness was similar to that of cortical volume in differentiating between normal ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and FTD. Furthermore, cortical thickness measurements significantly improved the classification between Alzheimer’s disease and FTD based on neuropsychological scores alone, including the Mini-Mental State Examination and a modified version of the Trail-Making Test. In conclusion, the characteristic patterns of cortical thinning in Alzheimer’s disease and FTD suggest that cortical thickness may be a useful surrogate marker for these types of dementia.
PMCID: PMC1853284  PMID: 17353226
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; cortical thickness; cortical volume
10.  Neuroanatomical correlates of behavioural disorders in dementia 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2005;128(Pt 11):2612-2625.
Neurodegenerative diseases are associated with profound changes in social and emotional function. The emergence of increasingly sophisticated methods for measuring brain volume has facilitated correlation of local changes in tissue content with cognitive and behavioural changes in neurodegenerative disease. The current study examined neuroanatomical correlates of behavioural abnormalities, as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, in 148 patients with dementia using voxel-based morphometry. Of 12 behaviours examined, 4 correlated with tissue loss: apathy, disinhibition, eating disorders and aberrant motor behaviour. Increasing severity across these four behaviours was associated with tissue loss in the ventral portion of the right anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) and adjacent ventromedial superior frontal gyrus (vmSFG), the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) more posteriorly, the right lateral middle frontal gyrus, the right caudate head, the right orbitofrontal cortex and the right anterior insula. In addition, apathy was independently associated with tissue loss in the right vmSFG, disinhibition with tissue loss in the right subgenual cingulate gyrus in the VMPC, and aberrant motor behaviour with tissue loss in the right dorsal ACC and left premotor cortex. These data strongly support the involvement of the right hemisphere in mediating social and emotional behaviour and highlight the importance of distinct regions on the medial wall of the right frontal lobe in regulating different behaviours. Furthermore, the findings underscore the utility of studying patients with dementia for understanding the neuroanatomical basis of social and emotional functions.
PMCID: PMC1820861  PMID: 16195246
frontotemporal dementia; neuropsychiatric inventory; voxel-based morphometry; right hemisphere; cingulate; ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; FTD = frontotemporal dementia; MMSE = Mini-Mental State Examination; NPI = Neuropsychiatric Inventory; OFC = orbitofrontal cortex; ROI = region of interest; SGC = subgenual cingulate gyrus; SPM = statistical parametric mapping; TIV = total intracranial volume; vACC = ventral portion of the right anterior cingulate cortex; VBM = voxel-based morphometry; VMPC = ventromedial prefrontal cortex; vmSFG = ventromedial superior frontal gyrus

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