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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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt242
PMCID: PMC3808687  PMID: 24056533
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; dementia aphasia; case control study; risk factors in epidemiology
2.  Corticospinal tract degeneration associated with TDP-43 type C pathology and semantic dementia 
Brain  2013;136(2):455-470.
Four subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions have been described (types A–D). Of these four subtypes, motor neuron disease is more commonly associated with type B pathology, but has also been reported with type A pathology. We have noted, however, the unusual occurrence of cases of type C pathology having corticospinal tract degeneration. We aimed to assess the severity of corticospinal tract degeneration in a large cohort of cases with type C (n = 31). Pathological analysis included semi-quantitation of myelin loss of fibres of the corticospinal tract and associated macrophage burden, as well as axonal loss, at the level of the medullary pyramids. We also assessed for motor cortex degeneration and fibre loss of the medial lemniscus/olivocerebellar tract. All cases were subdivided into three groups based on the degree of corticospinal tract degeneration: (i) no corticospinal tract degeneration; (ii) equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration; and (iii) moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration. Clinical, genetic, pathological and imaging comparisons were performed across groups. Eight cases had no corticospinal tract degeneration, and 14 cases had equivocal to mild corticospinal tract degeneration. Nine cases, however, had moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration with myelin and axonal loss. In these nine cases, there was degeneration of the motor cortex without lower motor neuron degeneration or involvement of other brainstem tracts. These cases most commonly presented as semantic dementia, and they had longer disease duration (mean: 15.3 years) compared with the other two groups (10.8 and 9.9 years; P = 0.03). After adjusting for disease duration, severity of corticospinal tract degeneration remained significantly different across groups. Only one case, without corticospinal tract degeneration, was found to have a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. All three groups were associated with anterior temporal lobe atrophy on MRI; however, the cases with moderate to severe corticospinal tract degeneration showed right-sided temporal lobe asymmetry and greater involvement of the right temporal lobe and superior motor cortices than the other groups. In contrast, the cases with no or equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration were more likely to show left-sided temporal lobe asymmetry. For comparison, the corticospinal tract was assessed in 86 type A and B cases, and only two cases showed evidence of corticospinal tract degeneration without lower motor neuron degeneration. These findings confirm that there exists a unique association between frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type C pathology and corticospinal tract degeneration, with this entity showing a predilection to involve the right temporal lobe.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws324
PMCID: PMC3572926  PMID: 23358603
TDP-43 type C; corticospinal tract; MRI; semantic dementia; right temporal lobe
3.  Neuropathological features of corticobasal degeneration presenting as corticobasal syndrome or Richardson syndrome 
Brain  2011;134(11):3264-3275.
Patients with corticobasal degeneration can present with several different clinical syndromes, making ante-mortem diagnosis a challenge. Corticobasal syndrome is the clinical phenotype originally described for corticobasal degeneration, characterized by asymmetric rigidity and apraxia, cortical sensory deficits, dystonia and myoclonus. Some patients do not develop these features, but instead have clinical features consistent with the Richardson syndrome presentation of progressive supranuclear palsy, characterized by postural instability, early unexplained falls, vertical supranuclear gaze palsy, symmetric motor disability and dysphagia. The aim of this study was to identify differences in corticobasal degeneration presenting with corticobasal syndrome (n = 11) or Richardson syndrome (n = 15) with respect to demographic, clinical and neuropathological features. Corticobasal degeneration cases were also compared with patients with pathologically proven progressive supranuclear palsy with Richardson syndrome (n = 15). Cases with corticobasal degeneration, regardless of presentation, shared histopathological and tau biochemical characteristics, but they had differing densities of tau pathology in neuroanatomical regions that correlated with their clinical presentation. In particular, those with corticobasal syndrome had greater tau pathology in the primary motor and somatosensory cortices and putamen, while those with Richardson syndrome had greater tau pathology in limbic and hindbrain structures. Compared with progressive supranuclear palsy, patients with corticobasal degeneration and Richardson syndrome had less neuronal loss in the subthalamic nucleus, but more severe neuronal loss in the medial substantia nigra and greater atrophy of the anterior corpus callosum. Clinically, they had more cognitive impairment and frontal behavioural dysfunction. The results suggest that Richardson syndrome can be a clinicopathological presentation of corticobasal degeneration. Atrophy of anterior corpus callosum may be a potential neuroimaging marker to differentiate corticobasal degeneration from progressive supranuclear palsy in patients with Richardson syndrome.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr234
PMCID: PMC3212714  PMID: 21933807
pathology; immunocytochemistry; progressive supranuclear palsy; tau protein; corticobasal degeneration
4.  Characterization of frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with the GGGGCC repeat expansion in C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):765-783.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have been linked to chromosome 9, and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 has recently been identified as the pathogenic mechanism. We describe the key characteristics in the probands and their affected relatives who have been evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester or Mayo Clinic Florida in whom the hexanucleotide repeat expansion were found. Forty-three probands and 10 of their affected relatives with DNA available (total 53 subjects) were shown to carry the hexanucleotide repeat expansion. Thirty-six (84%) of the 43 probands had a familial disorder, whereas seven (16%) appeared to be sporadic. Among examined subjects from the 43 families (n = 63), the age of onset ranged from 33 to 72 years (median 52 years) and survival ranged from 1 to 17 years, with the age of onset <40 years in six (10%) and >60 in 19 (30%). Clinical diagnoses among examined subjects included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism (n = 30), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 18), frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without parkinsonism (n = 12), and other various syndromes (n = 3). Parkinsonism was present in 35% of examined subjects, all of whom had behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as the dominant clinical phenotype. No subject with a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia was identified with this mutation. Incomplete penetrance was suggested in two kindreds, and the youngest generation had significantly earlier age of onset (>10 years) compared with the next oldest generation in 11 kindreds. Neuropsychological testing showed a profile of slowed processing speed, complex attention/executive dysfunction, and impairment in rapid word retrieval. Neuroimaging studies showed bilateral frontal abnormalities most consistently, with more variable degrees of parietal with or without temporal changes; no case had strikingly focal or asymmetric findings. Neuropathological examination of 14 patients revealed a range of transactive response DNA binding protein molecular weight 43 pathology (10 type A and four type B), as well as ubiquitin-positive cerebellar granular neuron inclusions in all but one case. Motor neuron degeneration was detected in nine patients, including five patients without ante-mortem signs of motor neuron disease. While variability exists, most cases with this mutation have a characteristic spectrum of demographic, clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and especially neuropathological findings.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws004
PMCID: PMC3286335  PMID: 22366793
frontotemporal dementia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; TDP-43; neurogenetics; chromosome 9
5.  Assessment and familial aggregation of psychosis in Alzheimer’s disease from the National Institute on Aging Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Family Study 
Brain  2010;133(4):1155-1162.
Determining the genetic architecture of late onset Alzheimer’s disease remains an important research objective. One approach to the identification of novel genetic variants contributing to the disease is the classification of biologically meaningful subgroups within the larger late-onset Alzheimer’s disease phenotype. The occurrence of psychotic symptoms in patients with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease may identify one such group. We attempted to establish methods for the reliable assessment of psychotic symptoms in a large, geographically dispersed collection of families, multiply affected with late onset Alzheimer’s disease, who were participants in the larger National Institute on Aging Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Family Study; and to characterize the correlates and familial aggregation of psychosis within this cohort. We found that reliable assessments of psychotic symptoms during in-person or phone interviews were readily implemented. The presence of psychosis in late onset Alzheimer’s disease was significantly associated with degree of cognitive impairment, and significantly, albeit modestly, correlated with the severity of other behavioural symptoms. Psychosis significantly aggregated within late onset Alzheimer’s disease families suggesting that it may identify a genetically determined subgroup. Future studies should examine the linkage and association of psychosis with genetic variation within these families.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq001
PMCID: PMC2912688  PMID: 20147454
Alzheimer’s disease; family study; genetics; psychiatric comorbidity
6.  Development of methodology for conducting clinical trials in frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Brain  2008;131(11):2957-2968.
To design clinical trials for the frontotemporal lobar degenerations (FTLD), knowledge about measurement of disease progression is needed to estimate power and enable the choice of optimal outcome measures. The aim here was to conduct a multicentre, 1 year replica of a clinical trial in patients with one of four FTLD syndromes, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), progressive logopenic aphasia (PLA) and semantic dementia (SMD). Patients with one of the four FTLD syndromes were recruited from five academic medical centres over a 2 year period. Standard operationalized diagnostic criteria were used. In addition to clinical inclusion and exclusion criteria, patients were required to exhibit focal frontal, temporal or insular brain atrophy or dysfunction by neuroimaging. Patients underwent neuropsychological, functional, behavioural, neurological and MR imaging assessment at baseline and approximately 12 months later. Potential outcome measures were examined for their rates of floor and ceiling values at baseline and end of study, their mean changes and variances. The neuropsychological tests were combined into two cognitive composites—one for language functions and the other for executive functions. There were 107 patients who underwent baseline assessment and 78 who completed a follow-up assessment within 10–16 months. Two global measures, the FTLD-modified Clinical Dementia Rating (FTLD-modified CDR) and the Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) demonstrated decline in the majority of patients. Several cognitive measures showed negligible floor or ceiling scores either at baseline or follow-up. Scores declined at follow-up in the majority of patients. The cognitive, executive and combined composites were shown to be sensitive to change across all FTLD syndromes. Patients improved at follow-up on the behavioural scales—the Frontal Behavioural Inventory (22%) and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (28%)—suggesting that these instruments may not be ideal for clinical trial use. It was feasible to recruit FTLD patients in a simulated multi-centre trial. There are several candidate outcome measures—including the FTLD-CDR and the cognitive composites— that could be used in clinical trials across the spectrum of FTLD.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn234
PMCID: PMC2725027  PMID: 18829698
frontotemporal dementia; clinical trials; neuropsychology
7.  Plasma progranulin levels predict progranulin mutation status in frontotemporal dementia patients and asymptomatic family members 
Brain  2009;132(3):583-591.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP43)-positive pathology. The clinical presentation associated with GRN mutations is heterogeneous and may include clinical probable Alzheimer's disease. All GRN mutations identified thus far cause disease through a uniform disease mechanism, i.e. the loss of functional GRN or haploinsufficiency. To determine if expression of GRN in plasma could predict GRN mutation status and could be used as a biological marker, we optimized a GRN ELISA and studied plasma samples of a consecutive clinical FTLD series of 219 patients, 70 control individuals, 72 early-onset probable Alzheimer's disease patients and nine symptomatic and 18 asymptomatic relatives of GRN mutation families. All FTLD patients with GRN loss-of-function mutations showed significantly reduced levels of GRN in plasma to about one third of the levels observed in non-GRN carriers and control individuals (P < 0.001). No overlap in distributions of GRN levels was observed between the eight GRN loss-of-function mutation carriers (range: 53–94 ng/ml) and 191 non-GRN mutation carriers (range: 115–386 ng/ml). Similar low levels of GRN were identified in asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers. Importantly, ELISA analyses also identified one probable Alzheimer's disease patient (1.4%) carrying a loss-of-function mutation in GRN. Biochemical analyses further showed that the GRN ELISA only detects full-length GRN, no intermediate granulin fragments. This study demonstrates that using a GRN ELISA in plasma, pathogenic GRN mutations can be accurately detected in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. The ∼75% reduction in full-length GRN, suggests an unbalanced GRN metabolism in loss-of-function mutation carriers whereby more GRN is processed into granulins. We propose that plasma GRN levels could be used as a reliable and inexpensive tool to identify all GRN mutation carriers in early-onset dementia populations and asymptomatic at-risk individuals.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn352
PMCID: PMC2664450  PMID: 19158106
Progranulin; ELISA; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Alzheimer's disease

Results 1-7 (7)