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.
reach adaptation; prism adaptation; motor control; autism
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.
comorbidity; depression; epilepsy; hippocampus; serotonin
The neuroendocrine response to episodes of acute stress is crucial for survival whereas the prolonged response to chronic stress can be detrimental. Learning and memory are particularly susceptible to stress with cognitive deficits being well characterized consequences of chronic stress. Although there is good evidence that acute stress can enhance cognitive performance, the mechanism(s) for this are unclear. We find that hippocampal slices, either prepared from rats following 30 min restraint stress or directly exposed to glucocorticoids, exhibit an N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor-independent form of long-term potentiation. We demonstrate that the mechanism involves an NMDA receptor and PKA-dependent insertion of Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors into synapses. These then trigger the additional NMDA receptor-independent form of LTP during high frequency stimulation.
long-term potentiation; metaplasticity; glucocorticoids; glutamate receptor; calcium
Classical accounts of the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease have emphasized degeneration of dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons with consequent dysfunction of cortico–striatal–thalamic loops. In contrast, post-mortem studies indicate that pathological changes in Parkinson’s disease (Lewy neurites and Lewy bodies) first appear primarily in the lower brainstem with subsequent progression to more rostral parts of the neuraxis. The nigrostriatal and histological perspectives are not incompatible, but they do emphasize different anatomical structures. To address the question of which brain structures are functionally most affected by Parkinson’s disease, we performed a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study focused on striatal functional connectivity. We contrasted 13 patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease versus 19 age-matched control subjects, using methodology incorporating scrupulous attention to minimizing the effects of head motion during scanning. The principal finding in the Parkinson’s disease group was markedly lower striatal correlations with thalamus, midbrain, pons and cerebellum. This result reinforces the importance of the brainstem in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Focally altered functional connectivity also was observed in sensori-motor and visual areas of the cerebral cortex, as well the supramarginal gyrus. Striatal functional connectivity with the brainstem was graded (posterior putamen > anterior putamen > caudate), in both patients with Parkinson’s disease and control subjects, in a manner that corresponds to well-documented gradient of striatal dopaminergic function loss in Parkinson’s disease. We hypothesize that this gradient provides a clue to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease; functional MRI; striatum; brainstem; functional reorganization
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating cureless neurodegenerative disorder affecting >35 million people worldwide. The disease is caused by toxic oligomers and aggregates of amyloid β protein and the microtubule-associated protein tau. Recently, the Lys-specific molecular tweezer CLR01 has been shown to inhibit aggregation and toxicity of multiple amyloidogenic proteins, including amyloid β protein and tau, by disrupting key interactions involved in the assembly process. Following up on these encouraging findings, here, we asked whether CLR01 could protect primary neurons from Alzheimer’s disease-associated synaptotoxicity and reduce Alzheimer’s disease–like pathology in vivo. Using cell culture and brain slices, we found that CLR01 effectively inhibited synaptotoxicity induced by the 42-residue isoform of amyloid β protein, including ∼80% inhibition of changes in dendritic spines density and long-term potentiation and complete inhibition of changes in basal synaptic activity. Using a radiolabelled version of the compound, we found that CLR01 crossed the mouse blood–brain barrier at ∼2% of blood levels. Treatment of 15-month-old triple-transgenic mice for 1 month with CLR01 resulted in a decrease in brain amyloid β protein aggregates, hyperphosphorylated tau and microglia load as observed by immunohistochemistry. Importantly, no signs of toxicity were observed in the treated mice, and CLR01 treatment did not affect the amyloidogenic processing of amyloid β protein precursor. Examining induction or inhibition of the cytochrome P450 metabolism system by CLR01 revealed minimal interaction. Together, these data suggest that CLR01 is safe for use at concentrations well above those showing efficacy in mice. The efficacy and toxicity results support a process-specific mechanism of action of molecular tweezers and suggest that these are promising compounds for developing disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid; inhibitor; synaptotoxicity; drug development
Meaningful speech, as exemplified in object naming, calls on knowledge of the mappings between word meanings and phonological forms. Phonological errors in naming (e.g. GHOST named as ‘goath’) are commonly seen in persisting post-stroke aphasia and are thought to signal impairment in retrieval of phonological form information. We performed a voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping analysis of 1718 phonological naming errors collected from 106 individuals with diverse profiles of aphasia. Voxels in which lesion status correlated with phonological error rates localized to dorsal stream areas, in keeping with classical and contemporary brain-language models. Within the dorsal stream, the critical voxels were concentrated in premotor cortex, pre- and postcentral gyri and supramarginal gyrus with minimal extension into auditory-related posterior temporal and temporo-parietal cortices. This challenges the popular notion that error-free phonological retrieval requires guidance from sensory traces stored in posterior auditory regions and points instead to sensory-motor processes located further anterior in the dorsal stream. In a separate analysis, we compared the lesion maps for phonological and semantic errors and determined that there was no spatial overlap, demonstrating that the brain segregates phonological and semantic retrieval operations in word production.
aphasia; dual-stream; voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping; naming; phonological errors; semantic errors
A distinguishing feature of Broca’s aphasia is non-fluent halting speech typically involving one to three words per utterance. Yet, despite such profound impairments, some patients can mimic audio-visual speech stimuli enabling them to produce fluent speech in real time. We call this effect ‘speech entrainment’ and reveal its neural mechanism as well as explore its usefulness as a treatment for speech production in Broca’s aphasia. In Experiment 1, 13 patients with Broca’s aphasia were tested in three conditions: (i) speech entrainment with audio-visual feedback where they attempted to mimic a speaker whose mouth was seen on an iPod screen; (ii) speech entrainment with audio-only feedback where patients mimicked heard speech; and (iii) spontaneous speech where patients spoke freely about assigned topics. The patients produced a greater variety of words using audio-visual feedback compared with audio-only feedback and spontaneous speech. No difference was found between audio-only feedback and spontaneous speech. In Experiment 2, 10 of the 13 patients included in Experiment 1 and 20 control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine the neural mechanism that supports speech entrainment. Group results with patients and controls revealed greater bilateral cortical activation for speech produced during speech entrainment compared with spontaneous speech at the junction of the anterior insula and Brodmann area 47, in Brodmann area 37, and unilaterally in the left middle temporal gyrus and the dorsal portion of Broca’s area. Probabilistic white matter tracts constructed for these regions in the normal subjects revealed a structural network connected via the corpus callosum and ventral fibres through the extreme capsule. Unilateral areas were connected via the arcuate fasciculus. In Experiment 3, all patients included in Experiment 1 participated in a 6-week treatment phase using speech entrainment to improve speech production. Behavioural and functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected before and after the treatment phase. Patients were able to produce a greater variety of words with and without speech entrainment at 1 and 6 weeks after training. Treatment-related decrease in cortical activation associated with speech entrainment was found in areas of the left posterior-inferior parietal lobe. We conclude that speech entrainment allows patients with Broca’s aphasia to double their speech output compared with spontaneous speech. Neuroimaging results suggest that speech entrainment allows patients to produce fluent speech by providing an external gating mechanism that yokes a ventral language network that encodes conceptual aspects of speech. Preliminary results suggest that training with speech entrainment improves speech production in Broca’s aphasia providing a potential therapeutic method for a disorder that has been shown to be particularly resistant to treatment.
Broca’s aphasia; functional MRI; speech production; tractography; treatment
Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 1B is caused by mutations in myelin protein zero. R98C mice, an authentic model of early onset Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 1B, develop neuropathy in part because the misfolded mutant myelin protein zero is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum where it activates the unfolded protein response. Because oral curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, has been shown to relieve endoplasmic reticulum stress and decrease the activation of the unfolded protein response, we treated R98C mutant mice with daily gastric lavage of curcumin or curcumin derivatives starting at 4 days of age and analysed them for clinical disability, electrophysiological parameters and peripheral nerve morphology. Heterozygous R98C mice treated with curcumin dissolved in sesame oil or phosphatidylcholine curcumin performed as well as wild-type littermates on a rotarod test and had increased numbers of large-diameter axons in their sciatic nerves. Treatment with the latter two compounds also increased compound muscle action potential amplitudes and the innervation of neuromuscular junctions in both heterozygous and homozygous R98C animals, but it did not improve nerve conduction velocity, myelin thickness, G-ratios or myelin period. The expression of c-Jun and suppressed cAMP-inducible POU (SCIP)—transcription factors that inhibit myelination when overexpressed—was also decreased by treatment. Consistent with its role in reducing endoplasmic reticulum stress, treatment with curcumin dissolved in sesame oil or phosphatidylcholine curcumin was associated with decreased X-box binding protein (XBP1) splicing. Taken together, these data demonstrate that treatment with curcumin dissolved in sesame oil or phosphatidylcholine curcumin improves the peripheral neuropathy of R98C mice by alleviating endoplasmic reticulum stress, by reducing the activation of unfolded protein response and by promoting Schwann cell differentiation.
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease 1B; curcumin; myelin protein zero; peripheral neuropathy; unfolded protein response
A growing body of evidence demonstrates an association between vascular risk factors and Alzheimer’s disease. This study investigated the frequency and severity of atherosclerotic plaques in the circle of Willis in Alzheimer’s disease and multiple other neurodegenerative diseases. Semi-quantitative data from gross and microscopic neuropathological examinations in 1000 cases were analysed, including 410 with a primary diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, 230 with synucleinopathies, 157 with TDP-43 proteinopathies, 144 with tauopathies and 59 with normal ageing. More than 77% of subjects with Alzheimer’s disease had grossly apparent circle of Willis atherosclerosis, a percentage that was significantly higher than normal (47%), or other neurodegenerative diseases (43–67%). Age- and sex-adjusted atherosclerosis ratings were highly correlated with neuritic plaque, paired helical filaments tau neurofibrillary tangle and cerebral amyloid angiopathy ratings in the whole sample and within individual groups. We found no associations between atherosclerosis ratings and α-synuclein or TDP-43 lesion ratings. The association between age-adjusted circle of Willis atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease–type pathology was more robust for female subjects than male subjects. These results provide further confirmation and specificity that vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease are interrelated and suggest that common aetiologic or reciprocally synergistic pathophysiological mechanisms promote both vascular pathology and plaque and tangle pathology.
atherosclerosis; neuritic plaques; neurofibrillary tangles; synuclein; TDP-43
We studied a two-generation family presenting with conditions that included progressive permanent weakness, myopathic myopathy, exercise-induced contracture before normokalaemic periodic paralysis or, if localized to the tibial anterior muscle group, transient compartment-like syndrome (painful acute oedema with neuronal compression and drop foot). 23Na and 1H magnetic resonance imaging displayed myoplasmic sodium overload, and oedema. We identified a novel familial Cav1.1 calcium channel mutation, R1242G, localized to the third positive charge of the domain IV voltage sensor. Functional expression of R1242G in the muscular dysgenesis mouse cell line GLT revealed a 28% reduced central pore inward current and a −20 mV shift of the steady-state inactivation curve. Both changes may be at least partially explained by an outward omega (gating pore) current at positive potentials. Moreover, this outward omega current of 27.5 nS/nF may cause the reduction of the overshoot by 13 mV and slowing of the upstroke of action potentials by 36% that are associated with muscle hypoexcitability (permanent weakness and myopathic myopathy). In addition to the outward omega current, we identified an inward omega pore current of 95 nS/nF at negative membrane potentials after long depolarizing pulses that shifts the R1242G residue above the omega pore constriction. A simulation reveals that the inward current might depolarize the fibre sufficiently to trigger calcium release in the absence of an action potential and therefore cause an electrically silent depolarization-induced muscle contracture. Additionally, evidence of the inward current can be found in 23Na magnetic resonance imaging-detected sodium accumulation and 1H magnetic resonance imaging-detected oedema. We hypothesize that the episodes are normokalaemic because of depolarization-induced compensatory outward potassium flux through both delayed rectifiers and omega pore. We conclude that the position of the R1242G residue before elicitation of the omega current is decisive for its conductance: if the residue is located below the gating pore as in the resting state then outward currents are observed; if the residue is above the gating pore because of depolarization, as in the inactivated state, then inward currents are observed. This study shows for the first time that functional characterization of omega pore currents is possible using a cultured cell line expressing mutant Cav1.1 channels. Likewise, it is the first calcium channel mutation for complicated normokalaemic periodic paralysis.
periodic paralyses; omega pore; voltage sensor; calcium channel
The neurovascular unit provides a dynamic interface between the circulation and central nervous system. Disruption of neurovascular integrity occurs in numerous brain pathologies including neurotrauma and ischaemic stroke. Tissue plasminogen activator is a serine protease that converts plasminogen to plasmin, a protease that dissolves blood clots. Besides its role in fibrinolysis, tissue plasminogen activator is abundantly expressed in the brain where it mediates extracellular proteolysis. However, proteolytically active tissue plasminogen activator also promotes neurovascular disruption after ischaemic stroke; the molecular mechanisms of this process are still unclear. Tissue plasminogen activator is naturally inhibited by serine protease inhibitors (serpins): plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, neuroserpin or protease nexin-1 that results in the formation of serpin:protease complexes. Proteases and serpin:protease complexes are cleared through high-affinity binding to low-density lipoprotein receptors, but their binding to these receptors can also transmit extracellular signals across the plasma membrane. The matrix metalloproteinases are the second major proteolytic system in the mammalian brain, and like tissue plasminogen activators are pivotal to neurological function but can also degrade structures of the neurovascular unit after injury. Herein, we show that tissue plasminogen activator potentiates neurovascular damage in a dose-dependent manner in a mouse model of neurotrauma. Surprisingly, inhibition of activity following administration of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 significantly increased cerebrovascular permeability. This led to our finding that formation of complexes between tissue plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 in the brain parenchyma facilitates post-traumatic cerebrovascular damage. We demonstrate that following trauma, the complex binds to low-density lipoprotein receptors, triggering the induction of matrix metalloproteinase-3. Accordingly, pharmacological inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase-3 attenuates neurovascular permeability and improves neurological function in injured mice. Our results are clinically relevant, because concentrations of tissue plasminogen activator: plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 complex and matrix metalloproteinase-3 are significantly elevated in cerebrospinal fluid of trauma patients and correlate with neurological outcome. In a separate study, we found that matrix metalloproteinase-3 and albumin, a marker of cerebrovascular damage, were significantly increased in brain tissue of patients with neurotrauma. Perturbation of neurovascular homeostasis causing oedema, inflammation and cell death is an important cause of acute and long-term neurological dysfunction after trauma. A role for the tissue plasminogen activator–matrix metalloproteinase axis in promoting neurovascular disruption after neurotrauma has not been described thus far. Targeting tissue plasminogen activator: plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 complex signalling or downstream matrix metalloproteinase-3 induction may provide viable therapeutic strategies to reduce cerebrovascular permeability after neurotrauma.
neurovascular unit; traumatic brain injury; tissue plasminogen activator; plasminogen activator inhibitor-1; matrix metalloproteinase-3
An important goal of addiction research and treatment is to predict behavioural responses to drug-related stimuli. This goal is especially important for patients with impaired insight, which can interfere with therapeutic interventions and potentially invalidate self-report questionnaires. This research tested (i) whether event-related potentials, specifically the late positive potential, predict choice to view cocaine images in cocaine addiction; and (ii) whether such behaviour prediction differs by insight (operationalized in this study as self-awareness of image choice). Fifty-nine cocaine abusers and 32 healthy controls provided data for the following laboratory components that were completed in a fixed-sequence (to establish prediction): (i) event-related potential recordings while passively viewing pleasant, unpleasant, neutral and cocaine images, during which early (400–1000 ms) and late (1000–2000 ms) window late positive potentials were collected; (ii) self-reported arousal ratings for each picture; and (iii) two previously validated tasks: one to assess choice for viewing these same images, and the other to group cocaine abusers by insight. Results showed that pleasant-related late positive potentials and arousal ratings predicted pleasant choice (the choice to view pleasant pictures) in all subjects, validating the method. In the cocaine abusers, the predictive ability of the late positive potentials and arousal ratings depended on insight. Cocaine-related late positive potentials better predicted cocaine image choice in cocaine abusers with impaired insight. Another emotion-relevant event-related potential component (the early posterior negativity) did not show these results, indicating specificity of the late positive potential. In contrast, arousal ratings better predicted respective cocaine image choice (and actual cocaine use severity) in cocaine abusers with intact insight. Taken together, the late positive potential could serve as a biomarker to help predict drug-related choice—and possibly associated behaviours (e.g. drug seeking in natural settings, relapse after treatment)—when insight (and self-report) is compromised.
cocaine addiction; insight; choice behaviour; event-related potentials; late positive potential; unconscious motivation
The molecular diagnosis of mitochondrial disorders still remains elusive in a large proportion of patients, but advances in next generation sequencing are significantly improving our chances to detect mutations even in sporadic patients. Syndromes associated with mitochondrial DNA multiple deletions are caused by different molecular defects resulting in a wide spectrum of predominantly adult-onset clinical presentations, ranging from progressive external ophthalmoplegia to multi-systemic disorders of variable severity. The mutations underlying these conditions remain undisclosed in half of the affected subjects. We applied next-generation sequencing of known mitochondrial targets (MitoExome) to probands presenting with adult-onset mitochondrial myopathy and harbouring mitochondrial DNA multiple deletions in skeletal muscle. We identified autosomal recessive mutations in the DGUOK gene (encoding mitochondrial deoxyguanosine kinase), which has previously been associated with an infantile hepatocerebral form of mitochondrial DNA depletion. Mutations in DGUOK occurred in five independent subjects, representing 5.6% of our cohort of patients with mitochondrial DNA multiple deletions, and impaired both muscle DGUOK activity and protein stability. Clinical presentations were variable, including mitochondrial myopathy with or without progressive external ophthalmoplegia, recurrent rhabdomyolysis in a young female who had received a liver transplant at 9 months of age and adult-onset lower motor neuron syndrome with mild cognitive impairment. These findings reinforce the concept that mutations in genes involved in deoxyribonucleotide metabolism can cause diverse clinical phenotypes and suggest that DGUOK should be screened in patients harbouring mitochondrial DNA deletions in skeletal muscle.
DGUOK; mitochondrial DNA instability; autosomal recessive progressive external ophthalmoplegia; multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions
Transplantation of neural stem cells provides a promising therapy for stroke. Its efficacy, however, might be limited because of massive grafted-cell death after transplantation, and its insufficient capability for tissue repair. Interleukin 6 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine involved in the pathogenesis of various neurological disorders. Paradoxically, interleukin 6 promotes a pro-survival signalling pathway through activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3. In this study, we investigated whether cellular reprogramming of neural stem cells with interleukin 6 facilitates the effectiveness of cell transplantation therapy in ischaemic stroke. Neural stem cells harvested from the subventricular zone of foetal mice were preconditioned with interleukin 6 in vitro and transplanted into mouse brains 6 h or 7 days after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion. Interleukin 6 preconditioning protected the grafted neural stem cells from ischaemic reperfusion injury through signal transducer and activator of transcription 3-mediated upregulation of manganese superoxide dismutase, a primary mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme. In addition, interleukin 6 preconditioning induced secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor from the neural stem cells through activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3, resulting in promotion of angiogenesis in the ischaemic brain. Furthermore, transplantation of interleukin 6-preconditioned neural stem cells significantly attenuated infarct size and improved neurological performance compared with non-preconditioned neural stem cells. This interleukin 6-induced amelioration of ischaemic insults was abolished by transfecting the neural stem cells with signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 small interfering RNA before transplantation. These results indicate that preconditioning with interleukin 6, which reprograms neural stem cells to tolerate oxidative stress after ischaemic reperfusion injury and to induce angiogenesis through activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3, is a simple and beneficial approach for enhancing the effectiveness of cell transplantation therapy in ischaemic stroke.
cytokine preconditioning; oxidative stress; angiogenesis; ischaemic stroke; transplantation
Brain responses (from functional magnetic resonance imaging) and components of information processing were investigated in nine cortically blind observers performing a global direction discrimination task. Three of these subjects had responses in perilesional cortex in response to blind field stimulation, whereas the others did not. We used the EZ-diffusion model of decision making to understand how cortically blind subjects make a perceptual decision on stimuli presented within their blind field. We found that these subjects had slower accumulation of information in their blind fields as compared with their good fields and to intact controls. Within cortically blind subjects, activity in perilesional tissue, V3A and hMT+ was associated with a faster accumulation of information for deciding direction of motion of stimuli presented in the blind field. This result suggests that the rate of information accumulation is a critical factor in the degree of impairment in cortical blindness and varies greatly among affected individuals. Retraining paradigms that seek to restore visual functions might benefit from focusing on increasing the rate of information accumulation.
functional MRI; stroke; brain lesions; motion processing; visual cortex
Although an insidious history of episodic memory difficulty is a typical presenting symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, detailed neuropsychological profiling frequently demonstrates deficits in other cognitive domains, including language. Previous studies from our group have shown that language changes may be reflected in connected speech production in the earliest stages of typical Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of the present study was to identify features of connected speech that could be used to examine longitudinal profiles of impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. Samples of connected speech were obtained from 15 former participants in a longitudinal cohort study of ageing and dementia, in whom Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed during life and confirmed at post-mortem. All patients met clinical and neuropsychological criteria for mild cognitive impairment between 6 and 18 months before converting to a status of probable Alzheimer’s disease. In a subset of these patients neuropsychological data were available, both at the point of conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and after disease severity had progressed from the mild to moderate stage. Connected speech samples from these patients were examined at later disease stages. Spoken language samples were obtained using the Cookie Theft picture description task. Samples were analysed using measures of syntactic complexity, lexical content, speech production, fluency and semantic content. Individual case analysis revealed that subtle changes in language were evident during the prodromal stages of Alzheimer’s disease, with two-thirds of patients with mild cognitive impairment showing significant but heterogeneous changes in connected speech. However, impairments at the mild cognitive impairment stage did not necessarily entail deficits at mild or moderate stages of disease, suggesting non-language influences on some aspects of performance. Subsequent examination of these measures revealed significant linear trends over the three stages of disease in syntactic complexity, semantic and lexical content. The findings suggest, first, that there is a progressive disruption in language integrity, detectable from the prodromal stage in a subset of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and secondly that measures of semantic and lexical content and syntactic complexity best capture the global progression of linguistic impairment through the successive clinical stages of disease. The identification of disease-specific language impairment in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease could enhance clinicians’ ability to distinguish probable Alzheimer’s disease from changes attributable to ageing, while longitudinal assessment could provide a simple approach to disease monitoring in therapeutic trials.
Alzheimer’s disease; aphasia; neuropsychological tests; language; connected speech analysis
Our aim was to investigate the natural evolution of cataplexy and polysomnographic features in untreated children with narcolepsy with cataplexy. To this end, clinical, polysomnographic, and cataplexy-video assessments were performed at diagnosis (mean age of 10 ± 3 and disease duration of 1 ± 1 years) and after a median follow-up of 3 years from symptom onset (mean age of 12 ± 4 years) in 21 children with narcolepsy with cataplexy and hypocretin 1 deficiency (tested in 19 subjects). Video assessment was also performed in two control groups matched for age and sex at first evaluation and follow-up and was blindly scored for presence of hypotonic (negative) and active movements. Patients’ data at diagnosis and at follow-up were contrasted, compared with controls, and related with age and disease duration. At diagnosis children with narcolepsy with cataplexy showed an increase of sleep time during the 24 h; at follow-up sleep time and nocturnal sleep latency shortened, in the absence of other polysomnographic or clinical (including body mass index) changes. Hypotonic phenomena and selected facial movements decreased over time and, tested against disease duration and age, appeared as age-dependent. At onset, childhood narcolepsy with cataplexy is characterized by an abrupt increase of total sleep over the 24 h, generalized hypotonia and motor overactivity. With time, the picture of cataplexy evolves into classic presentation (i.e. brief muscle weakness episodes triggered by emotions), whereas total sleep time across the 24 h decreases, returning to more age-appropriate levels.
children; narcolepsy; cataplexy; sleep; sleepiness
Glycosphingolipids are ubiquitous constituents of eukaryotic plasma membranes, and their sialylated derivatives, gangliosides, are the major class of glycoconjugates expressed by neurons. Deficiencies in their catabolic pathways give rise to a large and well-studied group of inherited disorders, the lysosomal storage diseases. Although many glycosphingolipid catabolic defects have been defined, only one proven inherited disease arising from a defect in ganglioside biosynthesis is known. This disease, because of defects in the first step of ganglioside biosynthesis (GM3 synthase), results in a severe epileptic disorder found at high frequency amongst the Old Order Amish. Here we investigated an unusual neurodegenerative phenotype, most commonly classified as a complex form of hereditary spastic paraplegia, present in families from Kuwait, Italy and the Old Order Amish. Our genetic studies identified mutations in B4GALNT1 (GM2 synthase), encoding the enzyme that catalyzes the second step in complex ganglioside biosynthesis, as the cause of this neurodegenerative phenotype. Biochemical profiling of glycosphingolipid biosynthesis confirmed a lack of GM2 in affected subjects in association with a predictable increase in levels of its precursor, GM3, a finding that will greatly facilitate diagnosis of this condition. With the description of two neurological human diseases involving defects in two sequentially acting enzymes in ganglioside biosynthesis, there is the real possibility that a previously unidentified family of ganglioside deficiency diseases exist. The study of patients and animal models of these disorders will pave the way for a greater understanding of the role gangliosides play in neuronal structure and function and provide insights into the development of effective treatment therapies.
ganglioside biosynthesis; B4GALNT1; Amish; SPG26; hereditary spastic paraplegia
Children with a history of a prolonged febrile seizure show signs of acute hippocampal injury on magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, animal studies have shown that adult rats who suffered febrile seizures during development reveal memory impairments. Together, these lines of evidence suggest that memory impairments related to hippocampal injury may be evident in human children after prolonged febrile seizures. The current study addressed this question by investigating memory abilities in 26 children soon after a prolonged febrile seizure (median: 37.5 days) and compared their results to those of 37 normally developing children. Fifteen patients were reassessed at a mean of 12.5 months after their first assessment to determine the transiency of any observed effects. We used the visual paired comparison task to test memory abilities in our group, as this task does not depend on verbal abilities and also because successful performance on the task has been proven to depend on the presence of functional hippocampi. Our findings show that patients perform as well as controls in the absence of a delay between the learning phase and the memory test, suggesting that both groups are able to form representations of the presented stimulus. However, after a 5-min delay, patients’ recognition memory is not different from chance, and comparison of patients and controls points to an accelerated forgetting rate in the prolonged febrile seizure group. The patients’ performance was not related to the time elapsed from the acute event or the duration of the prolonged febrile seizure, suggesting that the observed effect is not a by-product of the seizure itself or a delayed effect of medication administered to terminate the seizure. By contrast, performance was related to hippocampal size; participants with the smallest mean hippocampal volumes revealed the biggest drop in performance from the immediate to the delayed paradigm. At follow-up, children were still showing deficiencies in recognizing a face after a 5-min delay. Similarly, this suggests that the observed memory impairments are not a transient effect of the prolonged febrile seizures. This is the first report of such impairments in humans, and it is clinically significant given the links between mesial temporal sclerosis and prolonged febrile seizures. The persistence of these impairments a year onwards signals the potential benefits of intervention in these children who run the risk of developing episodic memory deficits in later childhood.
memory; hippocampus; prolonged febrile seizures
Temporal lobe seizures have a significant chance to induce impairment of normal brain functions. Even after the termination of ictal discharges, during the post-ictal period, loss of consciousness, decreased responsiveness or other cognitive dysfunctions can persist. Previous studies have found various anatomical and functional abnormalities accompanying temporal lobe seizures, including an abnormal elevation of cortical slow waves. Intracranial electroencephalography studies have shown a prominent increase of lower frequency components during and following seizures that impair (complex partial seizures) but not those that preserve (simple partial seizures) normal consciousness and responsiveness. However, due to the limited spatial coverage of intracranial electroencephalography, the investigation of cortical slow waves cannot be easily extended to the whole brain. In this study, we used scalp electroencephalography to study the spectral features and spatial distribution of post-ictal slow waves with comprehensive spatial coverage. We studied simple partial, complex partial and secondarily generalized seizures in 28 patients with temporal lobe seizures. We used dense-array electroencephalography and source imaging to reconstruct the post-ictal slow-wave distribution. In the studied cohort, we found that a ‘global’ spectral power shift to lower frequencies accompanied the increased severity of seizures. The delta spectral power relative to higher frequency bands was highest for secondarily generalized seizures, followed by complex partial seizures and lastly simple partial seizures. In addition to this ‘global’ spectral shift, we found a ‘regional’ spatial shift in slow-wave activity. Secondarily generalized seizures and complex partial seizures exhibited increased slow waves distributed to frontal areas with spread to contralateral temporal and parietal regions than in simple partial seizures. These results revealed that a widespread cortical network including temporal and fronto-parietal cortex is involved in abnormal slow-wave activity following temporal lobe seizures. The differential spectral and spatial shifts of post-ictal electroencephalography activity in simple partial, complex partial and secondarily generalized seizures suggest a possible connection between cortical slow waves and behavioural and cognitive changes in a human epilepsy model.
cortical slowing; temporal lobe seizure; post-ictal state; consciousness; responsiveness
Neuroimaging data demonstrate that carpal tunnel syndrome, a peripheral neuropathy, is accompanied by maladaptive central neuroplasticity. To further investigate this phenomenon, we collected magnetoencephalography data from 12 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and 12 healthy control subjects undergoing somatosensory stimulation of the median nerve-innervated Digits 2 and 3, as well as Digit 5, which is innervated by the ulnar nerve. Nerve conduction velocity and psychophysical data were acquired to determine whether standard clinical measures correlated with brain response. In subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome, but not healthy controls, sensory nerve conduction velocity for Digits 2 and 3 was slower than Digit 5. However, somatosensory M20 latencies for Digits 2 and 3 were significantly longer than those of Digit 5. The extent of the M20 delay for median nerve-innervated Digit 2 was positively correlated with decreasing nerve conduction velocity and increasing pain severity. Thus, slower peripheral nerve conduction in carpal tunnel syndrome corresponds to greater delays in the first somatosensory cortical response. Furthermore, spectral analysis demonstrated weaker post-stimulus beta event-related desynchronization and earlier and shorter event-related synchronization in subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome. The extent of the decreased event-related desynchronization for median nerve-innervated digits was positively correlated with paraesthesia severity. We propose that ongoing paraesthesias in median nerve-innervated digits render their corresponding sensorimotor cortical areas ‘busy’, thus reducing their capacity to process external stimulation. Finally, subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome demonstrated a smaller cortical source separation for Digits 2 and 3 compared with healthy controls. This supports our hypothesis that ongoing paraesthesias promote blurring of median nerve-innervated digit representations through Hebbian plasticity mechanisms. In summary, this study reveals significant correlation between the clinical severity of carpal tunnel syndrome and the latency of the early M20, as well as the strength of long latency beta oscillations. These temporal magnetoencephalography measures are novel markers of neuroplasticity in carpal tunnel syndrome and could be used to study central changes that may occur following clinical intervention.
magnetoencephalography; neuropathic pain; somatosensory areas; plasticity; oscillations
Lewy bodies are common in the ageing brain and often co-occur with Alzheimer’s disease pathology. There is little known regarding the independent role of Lewy body pathology in cognition impairment, decline and fluctuations in community-dwelling older persons. We examined the contribution of Lewy body pathology to dementia, global cognition, cognitive domains, cognitive decline and fluctuations in 872 autopsied subjects (mean age = 87.9 years) from the Rush Religious Order Study (n = 491) and Memory and Aging Project (n = 381) longitudinal community-based clinical–pathological studies. Dementia was based on a clinical evaluation; annual cognitive performance tests were used to create a measure of global cognition and five cognitive domains. Lewy body type was determined by using α-synuclein immunostained sections of substantia nigra, limbic and neocortical regions. Statistical models included multiple regression models for dementia and cognition and mixed effects models for decline. Cognitive fluctuations were estimated by comparing standard deviations of individual residuals from mean trajectories of decline in those with and without Lewy bodies. All models controlled for age, sex, education, Alzheimer’s disease pathology and infarcts. One hundred and fifty-seven subjects (18%) exhibited Lewy body pathology (76 neocortical-type, 54 limbic-type and 27 nigra-predominant). One hundred and three (66%) subjects with Lewy body pathology had a pathologic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Neocortical-type, but not nigral-predominant or limbic-type Lewy body pathology was related to an increased odds of dementia (odds ratio = 3.21; 95% confidence interval = 1.78–5.81) and lower cognition (P < 0.001) including episodic memory function (P < 0.001) proximate to death. Neocortical-type Lewy body pathology was also related to a faster decline in global cognition (P < 0.001), decline in all five specific cognitive domains (all P-values < 0.001), and to fluctuations in decline of working and semantic memory (P-values < 0.001). Limbic-type Lewy body pathology was related to lower and faster decline in visuospatial skills (P = 0.042). The relationship of Lewy body pathology to cognition and dementia was not modified by Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Neocortical-type Lewy body pathology is associated with increased odds of dementia; lower and more rapid decline in all cognitive domains including episodic memory and fluctuations in decline in semantic and working memory. Limbic-type Lewy body pathology is specifically associated with lower and more rapid decline in visuospatial skills. The effect of Lewy body pathology on cognition appears to be independent of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.
Lewy body pathology; cognition; dementia; cognitive decline; fluctuations
Mutations in the spastic paraplegia 7 (SPG7) gene encoding paraplegin are responsible for autosomal recessive hereditary spasticity. We screened 135 unrelated index cases, selected in five different settings: SPG7-positive patients detected during SPG31 analysis using SPG31/SPG7 multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (n = 7); previously reported ambiguous SPG7 cases (n = 5); patients carefully selected on the basis of their phenotype (spasticity of the lower limbs with cerebellar signs and/or cerebellar atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging/computer tomography scan and/or optic neuropathy and without other signs) (n = 24); patients with hereditary spastic paraparesis referred consecutively from attending neurologists and the national reference centre in a diagnostic setting (n = 98); and the index case of a four-generation family with autosomal dominant optic neuropathy but no spasticity linked to the SPG7 locus. We identified two SPG7 mutations in 23/134 spastic patients, 21% of the patients selected according to phenotype but only 8% of those referred directly. Our results confirm the pathogenicity of Ala510Val, which was the most frequent mutation in our series (65%) and segregated at the homozygous state with spastic paraparesis in a large family with autosomal recessive inheritance. All SPG7-positive patients tested had optic neuropathy or abnormalities revealed by optical coherence tomography, indicating that abnormalities in optical coherence tomography could be a clinical biomarker for SPG7 testing. In addition, the presence of late-onset very slowly progressive spastic gait (median age 39 years, range 18–52 years) associated with cerebellar ataxia (39%) or cerebellar atrophy (47%) constitute, with abnormal optical coherence tomography, key features pointing towards SPG7-testing. Interestingly, three relatives of patients with heterozygote SPG7 mutations had cerebellar signs and atrophy, or peripheral neuropathy, but no spasticity of the lower limbs, suggesting that SPG7 mutations at the heterozygous state might predispose to late-onset neurodegenerative disorders, mimicking autosomal dominant inheritance. Finally, a novel missense SPG7 mutation at the heterozygous state (Asp411Ala) was identified as the cause of autosomal dominant optic neuropathy in a large family, indicating that some SPG7 mutations can occasionally be dominantly inherited and be an uncommon cause of isolated optic neuropathy. Altogether, these results emphasize the clinical variability associated with SPG7 mutations, ranging from optic neuropathy to spastic paraplegia, and support the view that SPG7 screening should be carried out in both conditions.
SPG7; hereditary spastic paraparesis; optic neuropathy; cerebellar atrophy, optical coherence tomography
Benign familial neonatal epilepsy is a neuronal channelopathy most commonly caused by mutations in KCNQ2, which encodes the Kv7.2 subunit of the slow K+ channel. Kv7.2 is expressed in both central and peripheral nervous systems. Seizures occur in the neonatal period, often in clusters within the first few days of life, and usually remit by 12 months of age. The mechanism of involvement of Kv7.2 mutations in the process of seizure generation has not been established in vivo. In peripheral axons, Kv7.2 contributes to the nodal slow K+ current. The present study aimed to determine whether axonal excitability studies could detect changes in peripheral nerve function related to dysfunction or loss of slow potassium channel activity. Nerve excitability studies were performed on eight adults with KCNQ2 mutations and a history of benign familial neonatal epilepsy, now in remission. Studies detected distinctive changes in peripheral nerve, indicating a reduction in slow K+ current. Specifically, accommodation to long-lasting depolarizing currents was reduced in mutation carriers by 24% compared with normal controls, and the threshold undershoot after 100 ms depolarizing currents was reduced by 22%. Additional changes in excitability included a reduction in the relative refractory period, an increase in superexcitability and a tendency towards reduced sub-excitability. Modelling of the nerve excitability changes suggested that peripheral nerve hyperexcitability may have been ameliorated by upregulation of other potassium channels. We conclude that subclinical dysfunction of Kv7.2 in peripheral axons can be reliably detected non-invasively in adulthood. Related alterations in neuronal excitability may contribute to epilepsy associated with KCNQ2 mutations.
epilepsy; channelopathy; nerve excitability; neuromyotonia; potassium channel