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1.  Acquisition of internal models of motor tasks in children with autism 
Brain  2008;131(11):2894-2903.
Children with autism exhibit a host of motor disorders including poor coordination, poor tool use and delayed learning of complex motor skills like riding a tricycle. Theory suggests that one of the crucial steps in motor learning is the ability to form internal models: to predict the sensory consequences of motor commands and learn from errors to improve performance on the next attempt. The cerebellum appears to be an important site for acquisition of internal models, and indeed the development of the cerebellum is abnormal in autism. Here, we examined autistic children on a range of tasks that required a change in the motor output in response to a change in the environment. We first considered a prism adaptation task in which the visual map of the environment was shifted. The children were asked to throw balls to visual targets with and without the prism goggles. We next considered a reaching task that required moving the handle of a novel tool (a robotic arm). The tool either imposed forces on the hand or displaced the cursor associated with the handle position. In all tasks, the children with autism adapted their motor output by forming a predictive internal model, as exhibited through after-effects. Surprisingly, the rates of acquisition and washout were indistinguishable from normally developing children. Therefore, the mechanisms of acquisition and adaptation of internal models in self-generated movements appeared normal in autism. Sparing of adaptation suggests that alternative mechanisms contribute to impaired motor skill development in autism. Furthermore, the findings may have therapeutic implications, highlighting a reliable mechanism by which children with autism can most effectively alter their behaviour.
PMCID: PMC2577807  PMID: 18819989
reach adaptation; prism adaptation; motor control; autism
2.  Depression after status epilepticus: behavioural and biochemical deficits and effects of fluoxetine 
Brain  2008;131(8):2071-2083.
Depression represents one of the most common comorbidities in patients with epilepsy. However, the mechanisms of depression in epilepsy patients are poorly understood. Establishment of animal models of this comorbidity is critical for both understanding the mechanisms of the condition, and for preclinical development of effective therapies. The current study examined whether a commonly used animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is characterized by behavioural and biochemical alterations involved in depression. Male Wistar rats were subjected to LiCl and pilocarpine status epilepticus (SE). The development of chronic epileptic state was confirmed by the presence of spontaneous seizures and by enhanced brain excitability. Post-SE animals exhibited increase in immobility time under conditions of forced swim test (FST) which was indicative of despair-like state, and loss of taste preference in saccharin solution consumption test which pointed to the symptomatic equivalence of anhedonia. Biochemical studies revealed compromised serotonergic transmission in the raphe-hippocampal serotonergic pathway: decrease of serotonin (5-HT) concentration and turnover in the hippocampus, measured by high performance liquid chromatography, and decrease of 5-HT release from the hippocampus in response to raphe stimulation, measured by fast cyclic voltammetry. Administration of fluoxetine (FLX, 20 mg/kg/day for 10 days) to naive animals significantly shortened immobility time under conditions of FST, and inhibited 5-HT turnover in the hippocampus. In post-SE rats FLX treatment led to a further decrease of hippocampal 5-HT turnover; however, performance in FST was not improved. At the same time, FLX reversed SE-induced increase in brain excitability. In summary, our studies provide initial evidence that post-SE model of TLE might serve as a model of the comorbidity of epilepsy and depression. The finding that behavioural equivalents of depression were resistant to an antidepressant medication suggested that depression in epilepsy might have distinct underlying mechanisms beyond alterations in serotonergic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2587254  PMID: 18559371
comorbidity; depression; epilepsy; hippocampus; serotonin
3.  Erratum 
Brain  2013;136(10):e255.
PMCID: PMC3897276
4.  Corrigendum 
Brain  2012;136(9):2923.
PMCID: PMC3895962
5.  The right hemisphere supports but does not replace left hemisphere auditory function in patients with persisting aphasia 
Brain  2013;136(6):1901-1912.
In this study, we used magnetoencephalography and a mismatch paradigm to investigate speech processing in stroke patients with auditory comprehension deficits and age-matched control subjects. We probed connectivity within and between the two temporal lobes in response to phonemic (different word) and acoustic (same word) oddballs using dynamic causal modelling. We found stronger modulation of self-connections as a function of phonemic differences for control subjects versus aphasics in left primary auditory cortex and bilateral superior temporal gyrus. The patients showed stronger modulation of connections from right primary auditory cortex to right superior temporal gyrus (feed-forward) and from left primary auditory cortex to right primary auditory cortex (interhemispheric). This differential connectivity can be explained on the basis of a predictive coding theory which suggests increased prediction error and decreased sensitivity to phonemic boundaries in the aphasics’ speech network in both hemispheres. Within the aphasics, we also found behavioural correlates with connection strengths: a negative correlation between phonemic perception and an inter-hemispheric connection (left superior temporal gyrus to right superior temporal gyrus), and positive correlation between semantic performance and a feedback connection (right superior temporal gyrus to right primary auditory cortex). Our results suggest that aphasics with impaired speech comprehension have less veridical speech representations in both temporal lobes, and rely more on the right hemisphere auditory regions, particularly right superior temporal gyrus, for processing speech. Despite this presumed compensatory shift in network connectivity, the patients remain significantly impaired.
PMCID: PMC3673464  PMID: 23715097
aphasia; speech; mismatch negativity; MEG; dynamic causal modelling
6.  Impaired thalamocortical connectivity in autism spectrum disorder: a study of functional and anatomical connectivity 
Brain  2013;136(6):1942-1955.
The thalamus plays crucial roles in the development and mature functioning of numerous sensorimotor, cognitive and attentional circuits. Currently limited evidence suggests that autism spectrum disorder may be associated with thalamic abnormalities, potentially related to sociocommunicative and other impairments in this disorder. We used functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging probabilistic tractography to study the functional and anatomical integrity of thalamo-cortical connectivity in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and matched typically developing children. For connectivity with five cortical seeds (prefontal, parieto-occipital, motor, somatosensory and temporal), we found evidence of both anatomical and functional underconnectivity. The only exception was functional connectivity with the temporal lobe, which was increased in the autism spectrum disorders group, especially in the right hemisphere. However, this effect was robust only in partial correlation analyses (partialling out time series from other cortical seeds), whereas findings from total correlation analyses suggest that temporo-thalamic overconnectivity in the autism group was only relative to the underconnectivity found for other cortical seeds. We also found evidence of microstructural compromise within the thalamic motor parcel, associated with compromise in tracts between thalamus and motor cortex, suggesting that the thalamus may play a role in motor abnormalities reported in previous autism studies. More generally, a number of correlations of diffusion tensor imaging and functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging measures with diagnostic and neuropsychological scores indicate involvement of abnormal thalamocortical connectivity in sociocommunicative and cognitive impairments in autism spectrum disorder.
PMCID: PMC3673456  PMID: 23739917
autism; thalamus; connectivity; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging
7.  Beta-propeller protein-associated neurodegeneration: a new X-linked dominant disorder with brain iron accumulation 
Brain  2013;136(6):1708-1717.
Neurodegenerative disorders with high iron in the basal ganglia encompass an expanding collection of single gene disorders collectively known as neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation. These disorders can largely be distinguished from one another by their associated clinical and neuroimaging features. The aim of this study was to define the phenotype that is associated with mutations in WDR45, a new causative gene for neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation located on the X chromosome. The study subjects consisted of WDR45 mutation-positive individuals identified after screening a large international cohort of patients with idiopathic neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation. Their records were reviewed, including longitudinal clinical, laboratory and imaging data. Twenty-three mutation-positive subjects were identified (20 females). The natural history of their disease was remarkably uniform: global developmental delay in childhood and further regression in early adulthood with progressive dystonia, parkinsonism and dementia. Common early comorbidities included seizures, spasticity and disordered sleep. The symptoms of parkinsonism improved with l-DOPA; however, nearly all patients experienced early motor fluctuations that quickly progressed to disabling dyskinesias, warranting discontinuation of l-DOPA. Brain magnetic resonance imaging showed iron in the substantia nigra and globus pallidus, with a ‘halo’ of T1 hyperintense signal in the substantia nigra. All patients harboured de novo mutations in WDR45, encoding a beta-propeller protein postulated to play a role in autophagy. Beta-propeller protein-associated neurodegeneration, the only X-linked disorder of neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation, is associated with de novo mutations in WDR45 and is recognizable by a unique combination of clinical, natural history and neuroimaging features.
PMCID: PMC3673459  PMID: 23687123
iron; NBIA; autophagy; basal ganglia; Rett syndrome
8.  Deleting exon 55 from the nebulin gene induces severe muscle weakness in a mouse model for nemaline myopathy 
Brain  2013;136(6):1718-1731.
Nebulin—a giant sarcomeric protein—plays a pivotal role in skeletal muscle contractility by specifying thin filament length and function. Although mutations in the gene encoding nebulin (NEB) are a frequent cause of nemaline myopathy, the most common non-dystrophic congenital myopathy, the mechanisms by which mutations in NEB cause muscle weakness remain largely unknown. To better understand these mechanisms, we have generated a mouse model in which Neb exon 55 is deleted (NebΔExon55) to replicate a founder mutation seen frequently in patients with nemaline myopathy with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. NebΔExon55 mice are born close to Mendelian ratios, but show growth retardation after birth. Electron microscopy studies show nemaline bodies—a hallmark feature of nemaline myopathy—in muscle fibres from NebΔExon55 mice. Western blotting studies with nebulin-specific antibodies reveal reduced nebulin levels in muscle from NebΔExon55 mice, and immunofluorescence confocal microscopy studies with tropomodulin antibodies and phalloidin reveal that thin filament length is significantly reduced. In line with reduced thin filament length, the maximal force generating capacity of permeabilized muscle fibres and single myofibrils is reduced in NebΔExon55 mice with a more pronounced reduction at longer sarcomere lengths. Finally, in NebΔExon55 mice the regulation of contraction is impaired, as evidenced by marked changes in crossbridge cycling kinetics and by a reduction of the calcium sensitivity of force generation. A novel drug that facilitates calcium binding to the thin filament significantly augmented the calcium sensitivity of submaximal force to levels that exceed those observed in untreated control muscle. In conclusion, we have characterized the first nebulin-based nemaline myopathy model, which recapitulates important features of the phenotype observed in patients harbouring this particular mutation, and which has severe muscle weakness caused by thin filament dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3673460  PMID: 23715096
nebulin; nemaline myopathy; muscle fibre weakness; thin filament function
9.  Abnormal recruitment of extracellular matrix proteins by excess Notch3ECD: a new pathomechanism in CADASIL 
Brain  2013;136(6):1830-1845.
Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, or CADASIL, one of the most common inherited small vessel diseases of the brain, is characterized by a progressive loss of vascular smooth muscle cells and extracellular matrix accumulation. The disease is caused by highly stereotyped mutations within the extracellular domain of the NOTCH3 receptor (Notch3ECD) that result in an odd number of cysteine residues. While CADASIL-associated NOTCH3 mutations differentially affect NOTCH3 receptor function and activity, they all are associated with early accumulation of Notch3ECD-containing aggregates in small vessels. We still lack mechanistic explanation to link NOTCH3 mutations with small vessel pathology. Herein, we hypothesized that excess Notch3ECD could recruit and sequester functionally important proteins within small vessels of the brain. We performed biochemical, nano-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and immunohistochemical analyses, using cerebral and arterial tissue derived from patients with CADASIL and mouse models of CADASIL that exhibit vascular lesions in the end- and early-stage of the disease, respectively. Biochemical fractionation of brain and artery samples demonstrated that mutant Notch3ECD accumulates in disulphide cross-linked detergent-insoluble aggregates in mice and patients with CADASIL. Further proteomic and immunohistochemical analyses identified two functionally important extracellular matrix proteins, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases 3 (TIMP3) and vitronectin (VTN) that are sequestered into Notch3ECD-containing aggregates. Using cultured cells, we show that increased levels or aggregation of Notch3 enhances the formation of Notch3ECD–TIMP3 complex, promoting TIMP3 recruitment and accumulation. In turn, TIMP3 promotes complex formation including NOTCH3 and VTN. In vivo, brain vessels from mice and patients with CADASIL exhibit elevated levels of both insoluble cross-linked and soluble TIMP3 species. Moreover, reverse zymography assays show a significant elevation of TIMP3 activity in the brain vessels from mice and patients with CADASIL. Collectively, our findings lend support to a Notch3ECD cascade hypothesis in CADASIL disease pathology, which posits that aggregation/accumulation of Notch3ECD in the brain vessels is a central event, promoting the abnormal recruitment of functionally important extracellular matrix proteins that may ultimately cause multifactorial toxicity. Specifically, our results suggest a dysregulation of TIMP3 activity, which could contribute to mutant Notch3ECD toxicity by impairing extracellular matrix homeostasis in small vessels.
PMCID: PMC3673461  PMID: 23649698
CADASIL; Notch3; protein aggregation; extracellular matrix proteins; cerebrovasculature
10.  MANBA, CXCR5, SOX8, RPS6KB1 and ZBTB46 are genetic risk loci for multiple sclerosis 
Brain  2013;136(6):1778-1782.
A recent genome-wide association study reported five loci for which there was strong, but sub-genome-wide significant evidence for association with multiple sclerosis risk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of these potential risk loci in a large and independent data set of ∼20 000 subjects. We tested five single nucleotide polymorphisms rs228614 (MANBA), rs630923 (CXCR5), rs2744148 (SOX8), rs180515 (RPS6KB1), and rs6062314 (ZBTB46) for association with multiple sclerosis risk in a total of 8499 cases with multiple sclerosis, 8765 unrelated control subjects and 958 trios of European descent. In addition, we assessed the overall evidence for association by combining these newly generated data with the results from the original genome-wide association study by meta-analysis. All five tested single nucleotide polymorphisms showed consistent and statistically significant evidence for association with multiple sclerosis in our validation data sets (rs228614: odds ratio = 0.91, P = 2.4 × 10−6; rs630923: odds ratio = 0.89, P = 1.2 × 10−4; rs2744148: odds ratio = 1.14, P = 1.8 × 10−6; rs180515: odds ratio = 1.12, P = 5.2 × 10−7; rs6062314: odds ratio = 0.90, P = 4.3 × 10−3). Combining our data with results from the previous genome-wide association study by meta-analysis, the evidence for association was strengthened further, surpassing the threshold for genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) in each case. Our study provides compelling evidence that these five loci are genuine multiple sclerosis susceptibility loci. These results may eventually lead to a better understanding of the underlying disease pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3673463  PMID: 23739915
multiple sclerosis; complex genetics; genetic risk; immunogenetics; genetic association
11.  The salience network causally influences default mode network activity during moral reasoning 
Brain  2013;136(6):1929-1941.
Large-scale brain networks are integral to the coordination of human behaviour, and their anatomy provides insights into the clinical presentation and progression of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, which targets the default mode network, and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, which targets a more anterior salience network. Although the default mode network is recruited when healthy subjects deliberate about ‘personal’ moral dilemmas, patients with Alzheimer’s disease give normal responses to these dilemmas whereas patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia give abnormal responses to these dilemmas. We hypothesized that this apparent discrepancy between activation- and patient-based studies of moral reasoning might reflect a modulatory role for the salience network in regulating default mode network activation. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize network activity of patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and healthy control subjects, we present four converging lines of evidence supporting a causal influence from the salience network to the default mode network during moral reasoning. First, as previously reported, the default mode network is recruited when healthy subjects deliberate about ‘personal’ moral dilemmas, but patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia producing atrophy in the salience network give abnormally utilitarian responses to these dilemmas. Second, patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia have reduced recruitment of the default mode network compared with healthy control subjects when deliberating about these dilemmas. Third, a Granger causality analysis of functional neuroimaging data from healthy control subjects demonstrates directed functional connectivity from nodes of the salience network to nodes of the default mode network during moral reasoning. Fourth, this Granger causal influence is diminished in patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. These findings are consistent with a broader model in which the salience network modulates the activity of other large-scale networks, and suggest a revision to a previously proposed ‘dual-process’ account of moral reasoning. These findings also characterize network interactions underlying abnormal moral reasoning in frontotemporal dementia, which may serve as a model for the aberrant judgement and interpersonal behaviour observed in this disease and in other disorders of social function. More broadly, these findings link recent work on the dynamic interrelationships between large-scale brain networks to observable impairments in dementia syndromes, which may shed light on how diseases that target one network also alter the function of interrelated networks.
PMCID: PMC3673466  PMID: 23576128
moral reasoning; frontotemporal dementia; salience network; default mode network; functional neuroimaging
12.  Increased gyrification, but comparable surface area in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders 
Brain  2013;136(6):1956-1967.
Autism spectrum disorders are associated with atypically excessive early brain growth. Recent studies suggest that later cortical development, specifically cortical thickness, during adolescence and young adulthood is also aberrant. Nevertheless, previous studies of other surface-based metrics (e.g. surface area and gyrification) at high-resolution in autism spectrum disorders are limited. Forty-one males with autism spectrum disorders and 39 typically developing males matched on age (mean ∼17; range = 12–24 years) and IQ (mean ∼113; range = 85–143) provided high-resolution 3 T anatomical magnetic resonance imaging scans. The FreeSurfer image analysis suite quantified vertex-level surface area and gyrification. There were gyrification increases in the autism spectrum disorders group (relative to typically developing subjects) localized to bilateral posterior cortices (cluster corrected P < 0.01). Furthermore, the association between vocabulary knowledge and gyrification in left inferior parietal cortex (typically developing group: positive correlation; autism spectrum disorders group: no association) differed between groups. Finally, there were no group differences in surface area, and there was no interaction between age and group for either surface area or gyrification (both groups showed decreasing gyrification with increasing age). The present study complements and extends previous work by providing the first evidence of increased gyrification (though no differences in surface area) at high resolution among adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders and by showing a dissociation in the relationship between vocabulary and gyrification in autism spectrum disorders versus typically developing subjects. In contrast with previous findings of age-related cortical thinning in this same autism spectrum disorders sample, here we find that increases in gyrification are maintained across adolescence and young adulthood, implicating developmentally dissociable cortical atypicalities in autism spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3673467  PMID: 23715094
autism; MRI; gyrification; cortical folding; surface area
13.  Dissecting the uncinate fasciculus: disorders, controversies and a hypothesis 
Brain  2013;136(6):1692-1707.
The uncinate fasciculus is a bidirectional, long-range white matter tract that connects lateral orbitofrontal cortex and Brodmann area 10 with the anterior temporal lobes. Although abnormalities in the uncinate fasciculus have been associated with several psychiatric disorders and previous studies suggest it plays a putative role in episodic memory, language and social emotional processing, its exact function is not well understood. In this review we summarize what is currently known about the anatomy of the uncinate, we review its role in psychiatric and neurological illnesses, and we evaluate evidence related to its putative functions. We propose that an overarching role of the uncinate fasciculus is to allow temporal lobe-based mnemonic associations (e.g. an individual’s name + face + voice) to modify behaviour through interactions with the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which provides valence-based biasing of decisions. The bidirectionality of the uncinate fasciculus information flow allows orbital frontal cortex-based reward and punishment history to rapidly modulate temporal lobe-based mnemonic representations. According to this view, disruption of the uncinate may cause problems in the expression of memory to guide decisions and in the acquisition of certain types of learning and memory. Moreover, uncinate perturbation should cause problems that extend beyond memory to include social–emotional problems owing to people and objects being stripped of personal value and emotional history and lacking in higher-level motivational value.
PMCID: PMC3673595  PMID: 23649697
diffusion tensor imaging; episodic memory; orbitofrontal cortex; schizophrenia; anterior temporal lobe
14.  Evolution of neuronal and astroglial disruption in the peri-contusional cortex of mice revealed by in vivo two-photon imaging 
Brain  2013;136(5):1446-1461.
In traumatic brain injury mechanical forces applied to the cranium and brain cause irreversible primary neuronal and astroglial damage associated with terminal dendritic beading and spine loss representing acute damage to synaptic circuitry. Oedema develops quickly after trauma, raising intracranial pressure that results in a decrease of blood flow and consequently in cerebral ischaemia, which can cause secondary injury in the peri-contusional cortex. Spreading depolarizations have also been shown to occur after traumatic brain injury in humans and in animal models and are thought to accelerate and exacerbate secondary tissue injury in at-risk cortical territory. Yet, the mechanisms of acute secondary injury to fine synaptic circuitry within the peri-contusional cortex after mild traumatic brain injury remain unknown. A mild focal cortical contusion model in adult mouse sensory-motor cortex was implemented by the controlled cortical impact injury device. In vivo two-photon microscopy in the peri-contusional cortex was used to monitor via optical window yellow fluorescent protein expressing neurons, enhanced green fluorescent protein expressing astrocytes and capillary blood flow. Dendritic beading in the peri-contusional cortex developed slowly and the loss of capillary blood flow preceded terminal dendritic injury. Astrocytes were swollen indicating oedema and remained swollen during the next 24 h throughout the imaging session. There were no recurrent spontaneous spreading depolarizations in this mild traumatic brain injury model; however, when spreading depolarizations were repeatedly induced outside the peri-contusional cortex by pressure-injecting KCl, dendrites undergo rapid beading and recovery coinciding with passage of spreading depolarizations, as was confirmed with electrophysiological recordings in the vicinity of imaged dendrites. Yet, accumulating metabolic stress resulting from as few as four rounds of spreading depolarization significantly added to the fraction of beaded dendrites that were incapable to recover during repolarization, thus facilitating terminal injury. In contrast, similarly induced four rounds of spreading depolarization in another set of control healthy mice caused no accumulating dendritic injury as dendrites fully recovered from beading during repolarization. Taken together, our data suggest that in the mild traumatic brain injury the acute dendritic injury in the peri-contusional cortex is gated by the decline in the local blood flow, most probably as a result of developing oedema. Furthermore, spreading depolarization is a specific mechanism that could accelerate injury to synaptic circuitry in the metabolically compromised peri-contusional cortex, worsening secondary damage following traumatic brain injury.
PMCID: PMC3634194  PMID: 23466395
acute brain injury; dendritic beading; astroglial swelling; cortical spreading depolarization; in vivo; two-photon microscopy
15.  Migrating partial seizures of infancy: expansion of the electroclinical, radiological and pathological disease spectrum 
Brain  2013;136(5):1578-1591.
Migrating partial seizures of infancy, also known as epilepsy of infancy with migrating focal seizures, is a rare early infantile epileptic encephalopathy with poor prognosis, presenting with focal seizures in the first year of life. A national surveillance study was undertaken in conjunction with the British Paediatric Neurology Surveillance Unit to further define the clinical, pathological and molecular genetic features of this disorder. Fourteen children with migrating partial seizures of infancy were reported during the 2 year study period (estimated prevalence 0.11 per 100 000 children). The study has revealed that migrating partial seizures of infancy is associated with an expanded spectrum of clinical features (including severe gut dysmotility and a movement disorder) and electrographic features including hypsarrhythmia (associated with infantile spasms) and burst suppression. We also report novel brain imaging findings including delayed myelination with white matter hyperintensity on brain magnetic resonance imaging in one-third of the cohort, and decreased N-acetyl aspartate on magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Putaminal atrophy (on both magnetic resonance imaging and at post-mortem) was evident in one patient. Additional neuropathological findings included bilateral hippocampal gliosis and neuronal loss in two patients who had post-mortem examinations. Within this cohort, we identified two patients with mutations in the newly discovered KCNT1 gene. Comparative genomic hybridization array, SCN1A testing and genetic testing for other currently known early infantile epileptic encephalopathy genes (including PLCB1 and SLC25A22) was non-informative for the rest of the cohort.
PMCID: PMC3634200  PMID: 23599387
early infantile epileptic encephalopathy; migrating partial seizures in infancy; epilepsy of infancy with migrating focal seizures; malignant migrating partial epilepsy of infancy; infantile seizures
16.  Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F is caused by a microdeletion in the transportin 3 gene 
Brain  2013;136(5):1508-1517.
In 2001, we reported linkage of an autosomal dominant form of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, to chromosome 7q32.1-32.2, but the identity of the mutant gene was elusive. Here, using a whole genome sequencing strategy, we identified the causative mutation of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, a heterozygous single nucleotide deletion (c.2771del) in the termination codon of transportin 3 (TNPO3). This gene is situated within the chromosomal region linked to the disease and encodes a nuclear membrane protein belonging to the importin beta family. TNPO3 transports serine/arginine-rich proteins into the nucleus, and has been identified as a key factor in the HIV-import process into the nucleus. The mutation is predicted to generate a 15-amino acid extension of the C-terminus of the protein, segregates with the clinical phenotype, and is absent in genomic sequence databases and a set of >200 control alleles. In skeletal muscle of affected individuals, expression of the mutant messenger RNA and histological abnormalities of nuclei and TNPO3 indicate altered TNPO3 function. Our results demonstrate that the TNPO3 mutation is the cause of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F, expand our knowledge of the molecular basis of muscular dystrophies and bolster the importance of defects of nuclear envelope proteins as causes of inherited myopathies.
PMCID: PMC3634201  PMID: 23543484
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F; LGMD1F; TNPO3; transportin 3; c.2771del mutation
17.  Loudness adaptation accompanying ribbon synapse and auditory nerve disorders 
Brain  2013;136(5):1626-1638.
Abnormal auditory adaptation is a standard clinical tool for diagnosing auditory nerve disorders due to acoustic neuromas. In the present study we investigated auditory adaptation in auditory neuropathy owing to disordered function of inner hair cell ribbon synapses (temperature-sensitive auditory neuropathy) or auditory nerve fibres. Subjects were tested when afebrile for (i) psychophysical loudness adaptation to comfortably-loud sustained tones; and (ii) physiological adaptation of auditory brainstem responses to clicks as a function of their position in brief 20-click stimulus trains (#1, 2, 3 … 20). Results were compared with normal hearing listeners and other forms of hearing impairment. Subjects with ribbon synapse disorder had abnormally increased magnitude of loudness adaptation to both low (250 Hz) and high (8000 Hz) frequency tones. Subjects with auditory nerve disorders had normal loudness adaptation to low frequency tones; all but one had abnormal adaptation to high frequency tones. Adaptation was both more rapid and of greater magnitude in ribbon synapse than in auditory nerve disorders. Auditory brainstem response measures of adaptation in ribbon synapse disorder showed Wave V to the first click in the train to be abnormal both in latency and amplitude, and these abnormalities increased in magnitude or Wave V was absent to subsequent clicks. In contrast, auditory brainstem responses in four of the five subjects with neural disorders were absent to every click in the train. The fifth subject had normal latency and abnormally reduced amplitude of Wave V to the first click and abnormal or absent responses to subsequent clicks. Thus, dysfunction of both synaptic transmission and auditory neural function can be associated with abnormal loudness adaptation and the magnitude of the adaptation is significantly greater with ribbon synapse than neural disorders.
PMCID: PMC3634197  PMID: 23503620
auditory brainstem response; loudness adaptation; auditory neuropathy; temperature-sensitive deafness
18.  Brain amyloid-β oligomers in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(5):1383-1398.
Alzheimer’s disease begins about two decades before the onset of symptoms or neuron death, and is believed to be caused by pathogenic amyloid-β aggregates that initiate a cascade of molecular events culminating in widespread neurodegeneration. The microtubule binding protein tau may mediate the effects of amyloid-β in this cascade. Amyloid plaques comprised of insoluble, fibrillar amyloid-β aggregates are the most characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the correspondence between the distribution of plaques and the pattern of neurodegeneration is tenuous. This discrepancy has stimulated the investigation of other amyloid-β aggregates, including soluble amyloid-β oligomers. Different soluble amyloid-β oligomers have been studied in several mouse models, but not systematically in humans. Here, we measured three amyloid-β oligomers previously described in mouse models—amyloid-β trimers, Aβ*56 and amyloid-β dimers—in brain tissue from 75 cognitively intact individuals, ranging from young children to the elderly, and 58 impaired subjects with mild cognitive impairment or probable Alzheimer’s disease. As in mouse models, where amyloid-β trimers appear to be the fundamental amyloid-β assembly unit of Aβ*56 and are present in young mice prior to memory decline, amyloid-β trimers in humans were present in children and adolescents; their levels rose gradually with age and were significantly above baseline in subjects in their 70s. Aβ*56 levels were negligible in children and young adults, rose significantly above baseline in subjects in their 40s and increased steadily thereafter. Amyloid-β dimers were undetectable until subjects were in their 60s; their levels then increased sharply and correlated with plaque load. Remarkably, in cognitively intact individuals we found strong positive correlations between Aβ*56 and two pathological forms of soluble tau (tau-CP13 and tau-Alz50), and negative correlations between Aβ*56 and two postsynaptic proteins (drebrin and fyn kinase), but none between amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers and tau or synaptic proteins. Comparing impaired with age-matched unimpaired subjects, we found the highest levels of amyloid-β dimers, but the lowest levels of Aβ*56 and amyloid-β trimers, in subjects with probable Alzheimer’s disease. In conclusion, in cognitively normal adults Aβ*56 increased ahead of amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers, and pathological tau proteins and postsynaptic proteins correlated with Aβ*56, but not amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers. We propose that Aβ*56 may play a pathogenic role very early in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3634198  PMID: 23576130
amyloid-β; Alzheimer; dimer; trimer; Aβ*56; oligomer
19.  A genetic study of Wilson’s disease in the United Kingdom 
Brain  2013;136(5):1476-1487.
Previous studies have failed to identify mutations in the Wilson’s disease gene ATP7B in a significant number of clinically diagnosed cases. This has led to concerns about genetic heterogeneity for this condition but also suggested the presence of unusual mutational mechanisms. We now present our findings in 181 patients from the United Kingdom with clinically and biochemically confirmed Wilson’s disease. A total of 116 different ATP7B mutations were detected, 32 of which are novel. The overall mutation detection frequency was 98%. The likelihood of mutations in genes other than ATP7B causing a Wilson’s disease phenotype is therefore very low. We report the first cases with Wilson’s disease due to segmental uniparental isodisomy as well as three patients with three ATP7B mutations and three families with Wilson’s disease in two consecutive generations. We determined the genetic prevalence of Wilson’s disease in the United Kingdom by sequencing the entire coding region and adjacent splice sites of ATP7B in 1000 control subjects. The frequency of all single nucleotide variants with in silico evidence of pathogenicity (Class 1 variant) was 0.056 or 0.040 if only those single nucleotide variants that had previously been reported as mutations in patients with Wilson’s disease were included in the analysis (Class 2 variant). The frequency of heterozygote, putative or definite disease-associated ATP7B mutations was therefore considerably higher than the previously reported occurrence of 1:90 (or 0.011) for heterozygote ATP7B mutation carriers in the general population (P < 2.2 × 10-16 for Class 1 variants or P < 5 × 10-11 for Class 2 variants only). Subsequent exclusion of four Class 2 variants without additional in silico evidence of pathogenicity led to a further reduction of the mutation frequency to 0.024. Using this most conservative approach, the calculated frequency of individuals predicted to carry two mutant pathogenic ATP7B alleles is 1:7026 and thus still considerably higher than the typically reported prevalence of Wilson’s disease of 1:30 000 (P = 0.00093). Our study provides strong evidence for monogenic inheritance of Wilson’s disease. It also has major implications for ATP7B analysis in clinical practice, namely the need to consider unusual genetic mechanisms such as uniparental disomy or the possible presence of three ATP7B mutations. The marked discrepancy between the genetic prevalence and the number of clinically diagnosed cases of Wilson’s disease may be due to both reduced penetrance of ATP7B mutations and failure to diagnose patients with this eminently treatable disorder.
PMCID: PMC3634195  PMID: 23518715
Wilson’s disease; ATP7B; genetic prevalence
20.  Hypersensitivity of the hippocampal CA3 region to stress-induced neurodegeneration and amyloidogenesis in a rat model of surgical menopause 
Brain  2013;136(5):1432-1445.
Females who enter menopause prematurely via bilateral ovariectomy (surgical menopause) have a significantly increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia. To help elucidate the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, we used an animal model of surgical menopause, long-term (10-week) bilateral ovariectomy in female rats. Herein, we demonstrate that long-term oestrogen deprivation dramatically increases sensitivity of the normally resistant hippocampal CA3 region to ischaemic stress, an effect that was gender-specific, as it was not observed in long-term orchiectomized males. Furthermore, the enhanced damage to the CA3 region correlated with a worse cognitive outcome after ischaemic stress. Long-term ovariectomized rats also displayed a robust hyperinduction of Alzheimer’s disease-related proteins in the CA3 region and a switch in amyloid precursor protein processing from non-amyloidogenic to amyloidogenic following ischaemic stress CA3 hypersensitivity also extended to an Alzheimer’s disease-relevant insult, as the CA3 region of long-term ovariectomized rats was profoundly hypersensitive to the neurotoxic effects of amyloid-β1–42, the most amyloidogenic form of the amyloid-β peptide. Additional studies revealed that CA3 region hypersensitivity, Alzheimer’s disease-related protein induction, and amyloidogenesis are mediated by a NADPH oxidase/superoxide/c-Jun N-terminal kinase/c-Jun signalling pathway, involving both transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms. In addition, while 17β-oestradiol replacement at the end of the long-term oestrogen deprivation period could not prevent CA3 hypersensitivity and amyloidogenesis, if 17β-oestradiol was initiated at the time of ovariectomy and maintained throughout the 10-week oestrogen deprivation period, it completely prevented these events, providing support for the ‘critical window’ hypothesis for oestrogen replacement therapy benefit. Collectively, these findings may help explain the increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia observed in women following surgical menopause, and they provide increased support that early 17β-oestradiol replacement is critical in preventing the negative neural effects associated with bilateral ovariectomy.
PMCID: PMC3634196  PMID: 23474850
global cerebral ischaemia; hippocampus; cognition; surgical menopause; Alzheimer’s disease
21.  Are patients with Parkinson’s disease blind to blindsight? 
Brain  2014;137(6):1838-1849.
Diederich et al. propose that patients with Parkinson’s disease are “blind to blindsight” as they show preserved conscious vision, but erroneous “guess” localization of visual stimuli, poor saccades/motion perception, and poor emotional face perception with blunted autonomic reactions. Changes may reflect dysfunction of the phylogenetically old subconscious retino-colliculo-thalamo-amygdala and retino-geniculo-extrastriate pathways.
In Parkinson’s disease, visual dysfunction is prominent. Visual hallucinations can be a major hallmark of late stage disease, but numerous visual deficits also occur in early stage Parkinson’s disease. Specific retinopathy, deficits in the primary visual pathway and the secondary ventral and dorsal pathways, as well as dysfunction of the attention pathways have all been posited as causes of hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease. We present data from patients with Parkinson’s disease that contrast with a known neuro-ophthalmological syndrome, termed ‘blindsight’. In this syndrome, there is an absence of conscious object identification, but preserved ‘guess’ of the location of a stimulus, preserved reflexive saccades and motion perception and preserved autonomical and expressive reactions to negative emotional facial expressions. We propose that patients with Parkinson’s disease have the converse of blindsight, being ‘blind to blindsight’. As such they preserve conscious vision, but show erroneous ‘guess’ localization of visual stimuli, poor saccades and motion perception, and poor emotional face perception with blunted autonomic reaction. Although a large data set on these deficits in Parkinson’s disease has been accumulated, consolidation into one specific syndrome has not been proposed. Focusing on neuropathological and physiological data from two phylogenetically old and subconscious pathways, the retino-colliculo-thalamo-amygdala and the retino-geniculo-extrastriate pathways, we propose that aberrant function of these systems, including pathologically inhibited superior colliculus activity, deficient corollary discharges to the frontal eye fields, dysfunctional pulvinar, claustrum and amygdaloid subnuclei of the amygdala, the latter progressively burdened with Lewy bodies, underlie this syndrome. These network impairments are further corroborated by the concept of the ‘silent amygdala’. Functionally being ‘blind to blindsight’ may facilitate the highly distinctive ‘presence’ or ‘passage’ hallucinations of Parkinson’s disease and can help to explain handicaps in driving capacities and dysfunctional ‘theory of mind’. We propose this synthesis to prompt refined neuropathological and neuroimaging studies on the pivotal nuclei in these pathways in order to better understand the networks underpinning this newly conceptualized syndrome in Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4032103  PMID: 24764573
blindsight; hallucinations; Parkinson’s disease; superior colliculus; pre-emptive perception
22.  C9orf72 repeat expansions are a rare genetic cause of parkinsonism 
Brain  2013;136(Pt 2):385-391.
The recently identified C9ORF72 gene accounts for a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degenerations. Since several forms of these disorders are associated with parkinsonism, we hypothesized that some patients with Parkinson’s disease or other forms of parkinsonism might carry pathogenic C9OFR72 expansions. Therefore, we looked for C9ORF72 repeat expansions in 1,446 parkinsonian unrelated patients consisted of 1,225 clinically diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 123 with progressive supranuclear palsy, 21 with corticobasal degeneration syndrome, 43 with Lewy body dementia and 25 with multiple system atrophy-parkinsonism. Of the 1,446 parkinsonian patients, five carried C9ORF72 expansions: three patients with typical Parkinson’s disease, one with corticobasal degeneration syndrome and another with progressive supranuclear palsy. This study shows that: i) although rare, C9ORF72 repeat expansions may be associated with clinically typical Parkinson’s disease, but also with other parkinsonism; ii) in several patients, parkinsonism was dopa-responsive and remained pure, without associated dementia, for more than 10 years; iii) interestingly, all C9ORF72 repeat expansion carriers had positive family histories of parkinsonism, degenerative dementias or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This study also provides the tools for identifying parkinsonian patients with C9ORF72 expansions, with important consequences for genetic counseling.
PMCID: PMC3984141  PMID: 23413259
Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Female; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Open Reading Frames; genetics; Parkinson Disease; diagnosis; genetics; Pedigree; Proteins; genetics; Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion; genetics; Young Adult; parkinsonism; C9ORF72; dementia
23.  A genome-wide association study of brain lesion distribution in multiple sclerosis 
Brain  2013;136(4):1012-1024.
Brain magnetic resonance imaging is widely used as a diagnostic and monitoring tool in multiple sclerosis and provides a non-invasive, sensitive and reproducible way to track the disease. Topological characteristics relating to the distribution and shape of lesions are recognized as important neuroradiological markers in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, although these have been much less well characterized quantitatively than have traditional measures such as T2 hyperintense or T1 hypointense lesion volumes. Here, we used voxel-level 3 T magnetic resonance imaging T1-weighted scans to reconstruct the 3D topology of lesions in 284 subjects with multiple sclerosis and tested whether this is a heritable phenotype. To this end, we extracted the genotypes from a published genome-wide association study on these same individuals and searched for genetic associations with lesion load, shape and topological distribution. Lesion probability maps were created to identify frequently affected areas and to assess the overall distribution of T1 lesions in the subject population as a whole. We then developed an original algorithm to cluster adjacent lesional voxels (cluxels) in each subject and tested whether cluxel topology was significantly associated with any single-nucleotide polymorphism in our data set. To focus on patterns of lesion distribution, we computed the first 10 principal components. Although principal component 1 correlated with lesion load, none of the remaining orthogonal components correlated with any other known variable. We then conducted genome-wide association studies on each of these and found 31 significant associations (false discovery rate <0.01) with principal component 8, which represents a mode of variation of lesion topology in the population. The majority of the loci can be linked to genes related to immune cell function and to myelin and neural growth; some (SYK, MYT1L, TRAPPC9, SLITKR6 and RIC3) have been previously associated with the distribution of white matter lesions in multiple sclerosis. Finally, we used a bioinformatics approach to identify a network of 48 interacting proteins showing genetic associations (P < 0.01) with cluxel topology in multiple sclerosis. This network also contains proteins expressed in immune cells and is enriched in molecules expressed in the central nervous system that contribute to neural development and regeneration. Our results show how quantitative traits derived from brain magnetic resonance images of patients with multiple sclerosis can be used as dependent variables in a genome-wide association study. With the widespread availability of powerful computing and the availability of genotyped populations, integration of imaging and genetic data sets is likely to become a mainstream tool for understanding the complex biological processes of multiple sclerosis and other brain disorders.
PMCID: PMC3613709  PMID: 23412934
voxel-wise; GWAS; multiple sclerosis
24.  Contralesional motor deficits after unilateral stroke reflect hemisphere-specific control mechanisms 
Brain  2013;136(4):1288-1303.
We have proposed a model of motor lateralization, in which the left and right hemispheres are specialized for different aspects of motor control: the left hemisphere for predicting and accounting for limb dynamics and the right hemisphere for stabilizing limb position through impedance control mechanisms. Our previous studies, demonstrating different motor deficits in the ipsilesional arm of stroke patients with left or right hemisphere damage, provided a critical test of our model. However, motor deficits after stroke are most prominent on the contralesional side. Post-stroke rehabilitation has also, naturally, focused on improving contralesional arm impairment and function. Understanding whether contralesional motor deficits differ depending on the hemisphere of damage is, therefore, of vital importance for assessing the impact of brain damage on function and also for designing rehabilitation interventions specific to laterality of damage. We, therefore, asked whether motor deficits in the contralesional arm of unilateral stroke patients reflect hemisphere-dependent control mechanisms. Because our model of lateralization predicts that contralesional deficits will differ depending on the hemisphere of damage, this study also served as an essential assessment of our model. Stroke patients with mild to moderate hemiparesis in either the left or right arm because of contralateral stroke and healthy control subjects performed targeted multi-joint reaching movements in different directions. As predicted, our results indicated a double dissociation; although left hemisphere damage was associated with greater errors in trajectory curvature and movement direction, errors in movement extent were greatest after right hemisphere damage. Thus, our results provide the first demonstration of hemisphere specific motor control deficits in the contralesional arm of stroke patients. Our results also suggest that it is critical to consider the differential deficits induced by right or left hemisphere lesions to enhance post-stroke rehabilitation interventions.
PMCID: PMC3613707  PMID: 23358602
lateralization; stroke; motor control; reaching movements; impairment
25.  KLF11 mediates PPARγ cerebrovascular protection in ischaemic stroke 
Brain  2013;136(4):1274-1287.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) is emerging as a major regulator in neurological diseases. However, the role of (PPARγ) and its co-regulators in cerebrovascular endothelial dysfunction after stroke is unclear. Here, we have demonstrated that (PPARγ) activation by pioglitazone significantly inhibited both oxygen–glucose deprivation-induced cerebral vascular endothelial cell death and middle cerebral artery occlusion-triggered cerebrovascular damage. Consistent with this finding, selective (PPARγ) genetic deletion in vascular endothelial cells resulted in increased cerebrovascular permeability and brain infarction in mice after focal ischaemia. Moreover, we screened for (PPARγ) co-regulators using a genome-wide and high-throughput co-activation system and revealed KLF11 as a novel (PPARγ) co-regulator, which interacted with (PPARγ) and regulated its function in mouse cerebral vascular endothelial cell cultures. Interestingly, KLF11 was also found as a direct transcriptional target of (PPARγ). Furthermore, KLF11 genetic deficiency effectively abolished pioglitazone cytoprotection in mouse cerebral vascular endothelial cell cultures after oxygen–glucose deprivation, as well as pioglitazone-mediated cerebrovascular protection in a mouse middle cerebral artery occlusion model. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that KLF11 enhanced (PPARγ) transcriptional suppression of the pro-apoptotic microRNA-15a (miR-15a) gene, resulting in endothelial protection in cerebral vascular endothelial cell cultures and cerebral microvasculature after ischaemic stimuli. Taken together, our data demonstrate that recruitment of KLF11 as a novel (PPARγ) co-regulator plays a critical role in the cerebrovascular protection after ischaemic insults. It is anticipated that elucidating the coordinated actions of KLF11 and (PPARγ) will provide new insights into understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying (PPARγ) function in the cerebral vasculature and help to develop a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of stroke.
PMCID: PMC3613710  PMID: 23408111
KLF11; PPARγ; miR-15a; cerebral vascular endothelial cell; cerebral ischaemia

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