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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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn226
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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn117
PMCID: PMC2587254  PMID: 18559371
comorbidity; depression; epilepsy; hippocampus; serotonin
3.  Erratum 
Brain  2013;136(10):e255.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt051
PMCID: PMC3897276
4.  Corrigendum 
Brain  2012;136(9):2923.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws156
PMCID: PMC3895962
5.  Non-dystrophic myotonia: prospective study of objective and patient reported outcomes 
Brain  2013;136(7):2189-2200.
Non-dystrophic myotonias are rare diseases caused by mutations in skeletal muscle chloride and sodium ion channels with considerable phenotypic overlap between diseases. Few prospective studies have evaluated the sensitivity of symptoms and signs of myotonia in a large cohort of patients. We performed a prospective observational study of 95 participants with definite or clinically suspected non-dystrophic myotonia recruited from six sites in the USA, UK and Canada between March 2006 and March 2009. We used the common infrastructure and data elements provided by the NIH-funded Rare Disease Clinical Research Network. Outcomes included a standardized symptom interview and physical exam; the Short Form-36 and the Individualized Neuromuscular Quality of Life instruments; electrophysiological short and prolonged exercise tests; manual muscle testing; and a modified get-up-and-go test. Thirty-two participants had chloride channel mutations, 34 had sodium channel mutations, nine had myotonic dystrophy type 2, one had myotonic dystrophy type 1, and 17 had no identified mutation. Phenotype comparisons were restricted to those with sodium channel mutations, chloride channel mutations, and myotonic dystrophy type 2. Muscle stiffness was the most prominent symptom overall, seen in 66.7% to 100% of participants. In comparison with chloride channel mutations, participants with sodium mutations had an earlier age of onset of stiffness (5 years versus 10 years), frequent eye closure myotonia (73.5% versus 25%), more impairment on the Individualized Neuromuscular Quality of Life summary score (20.0 versus 9.44), and paradoxical eye closure myotonia (50% versus 0%). Handgrip myotonia was seen in three-quarters of participants, with warm up of myotonia in 75% chloride channel mutations, but also 35.3% of sodium channel mutations. The short exercise test showed ≥10% decrement in the compound muscle action potential amplitude in 59.3% of chloride channel participants compared with 27.6% of sodium channel participants, which increased post-cooling to 57.6% in sodium channel mutations. In evaluation of patients with clinical and electrical myotonia, despite considerable phenotypic overlap, the presence of eye closure myotonia, paradoxical myotonia, and an increase in short exercise test sensitivity post-cooling suggest sodium channel mutations. Outcomes designed to measure stiffness or the electrophysiological correlates of stiffness may prove useful for future clinical trials, regardless of underlying mutation, and include patient-reported stiffness, bedside manoeuvres to evaluate myotonia, muscle specific quality of life instruments and short exercise testing.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt133
PMCID: PMC3692030  PMID: 23771340
non-dystrophic myotonia; SCN4A; CLCN1; myotonia; paramyotonia
6.  Defective cerebellar control of cortical plasticity in writer’s cramp 
Brain  2013;136(7):2050-2062.
A large body of evidence points to a role of basal ganglia dysfunction in the pathophysiology of dystonia, but recent studies indicate that cerebellar dysfunction may also be involved. The cerebellum influences sensorimotor adaptation by modulating sensorimotor plasticity of the primary motor cortex. Motor cortex sensorimotor plasticity is maladaptive in patients with writer’s cramp. Here we examined whether putative cerebellar dysfunction in dystonia is linked to these patients’ maladaptive plasticity. To that end we compared the performances of patients and healthy control subjects in a reaching task involving a visuomotor conflict generated by imposing a random deviation (−40° to 40°) on the direction of movement of the mouse/cursor. Such a task is known to involve the cerebellum. We also compared, between patients and healthy control subjects, how the cerebellum modulates the extent and duration of an ongoing sensorimotor plasticity in the motor cortex. The cerebellar cortex was excited or inhibited by means of repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation before artificial sensorimotor plasticity was induced in the motor cortex by paired associative stimulation. Patients with writer’s cramp were slower than the healthy control subjects to reach the target and, after having repeatedly adapted their trajectories to the deviations, they were less efficient than the healthy control subjects to perform reaching movement without imposed deviation. It was interpreted as impaired washing-out abilities. In healthy subjects, cerebellar cortex excitation prevented the paired associative stimulation to induce a sensorimotor plasticity in the primary motor cortex, whereas cerebellar cortex inhibition led the paired associative stimulation to be more efficient in inducing the plasticity. In patients with writer’s cramp, cerebellar cortex excitation and inhibition were both ineffective in modulating sensorimotor plasticity. In patients with writer’s cramp, but not in healthy subjects, behavioural parameters reflecting their capacity for adapting to the rotation and for washing-out of an earlier adaptation predicted the efficacy of inhibitory cerebellar conditioning to influence sensorimotor plasticity: the better the online adaptation, the smaller the influence of cerebellar inhibitory stimulation on motor cortex plasticity. Altered cerebellar encoding of incoming afferent volleys may result in decoupling the motor component from the afferent information flow, and also in maladjusted sensorimotor calibration. The loss of cerebellar control over sensorimotor plasticity might also lead to building up an incorrect motor program to specific adaptation tasks such as writing.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt147
PMCID: PMC3692031  PMID: 23801734
cerebellum; dystonia; plasticity; transcranial magnetic stimulation; sensorimotor adaptation
7.  In vivo characterization of the early states of the amyloid-beta network 
Brain  2013;136(7):2239-2252.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that is associated with the abnormal accumulation of amyloid-β. Much is known about regional brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease, yet our knowledge about the network nature of Alzheimer’s disease-associated amyloid-β accumulation is limited. We use stepwise connectivity analysis of Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography images to reveal the network properties of amyloid-β deposits in normal elderly subjects and clinical patients with Alzheimer’s disease. We found that amyloid-β accumulation in the medial temporal lobe is associated with accumulation in cortical regions such as orbitofrontal, lateral temporal and precuneus/posterior cingulate cortices in Alzheimer’s disease. In normal subjects, there was a predominant association between amyloid-β deposits in the hippocampus and the midline prefrontal/orbitofrontal regions, even in those with very low amyloid-β burden. Moreover, the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala nucleus and hippocampus exhibit hub properties in the amyloid-β network that may be critical to understanding the putative spreading mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease pathology in early stages.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt146
PMCID: PMC3692037  PMID: 23801740
Alzheimer’s disease; network; amyloid; graph theory; early stages
8.  In vivo radioligand binding to translocator protein correlates with severity of Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(7):2228-2238.
Neuroinflammation is a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, but its role in cognitive impairment and its course of development during the disease are largely unknown. To address these unknowns, we used positron emission tomography with 11C-PBR28 to measure translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO), a putative biomarker for inflammation. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, patients with mild cognitive impairment and older control subjects were also scanned with 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B to measure amyloid burden. Twenty-nine amyloid-positive patients (19 Alzheimer’s, 10 mild cognitive impairment) and 13 amyloid-negative control subjects were studied. The primary goal of this study was to determine whether TSPO binding is elevated in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and the secondary goal was to determine whether TSPO binding correlates with neuropsychological measures, grey matter volume, 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B binding, or age of onset. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but not those with mild cognitive impairment, had greater 11C-PBR28 binding in cortical brain regions than controls. The largest differences were seen in the parietal and temporal cortices, with no difference in subcortical regions or cerebellum. 11C-PBR28 binding inversely correlated with performance on Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination, Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes, Logical Memory Immediate (Wechsler Memory Scale Third Edition), Trail Making part B and Block Design (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Third Edition) tasks, with the largest correlations observed in the inferior parietal lobule. 11C-PBR28 binding also inversely correlated with grey matter volume. Early-onset (<65 years) patients had greater 11C-PBR28 binding than late-onset patients, and in parietal cortex and striatum 11C-PBR28 binding correlated with lower age of onset. Partial volume corrected and uncorrected results were generally in agreement; however, the correlation between 11C-PBR28 and 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B binding was seen only after partial volume correction. The results suggest that neuroinflammation, indicated by increased 11C-PBR28 binding to TSPO, occurs after conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease and worsens with disease progression. Greater inflammation may contribute to the precipitous disease course typically seen in early-onset patients. 11C-PBR28 may be useful in longitudinal studies to mark the conversion from mild cognitive impairment or to assess response to experimental treatments of Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt145
PMCID: PMC3692038  PMID: 23775979
Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; neuroinflammation; positron emission tomography
11.  Endoplasmic reticulum stress in spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy: a potential target for therapy 
Brain  2014;137(7):1894-1906.
Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy is a degenerative motor neuron disease caused by CAG repeat expansion in the androgen receptor gene. Montague et al. reveal an early increase in endoplasmic reticulum stress in a mouse model, and suggest that this pathway may be a therapeutic target for polyglutamine diseases.
Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy is an X-linked degenerative motor neuron disease caused by an abnormal expansion in the polyglutamine encoding CAG repeat of the androgen receptor gene. There is evidence implicating endoplasmic reticulum stress in the development and progression of neurodegenerative disease, including polyglutamine disorders such as Huntington’s disease and in motor neuron disease, where cellular stress disrupts functioning of the endoplasmic reticulum, leading to induction of the unfolded protein response. We examined whether endoplasmic reticulum stress is also involved in the pathogenesis of spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy. Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy mice that carry 100 pathogenic polyglutamine repeats in the androgen receptor, and develop a late-onset neuromuscular phenotype with motor neuron degeneration, were studied. We observed a disturbance in endoplasmic reticulum-associated calcium homeostasis in cultured embryonic motor neurons from spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy mice, which was accompanied by increased endoplasmic reticulum stress. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of endoplasmic reticulum stress reduced the endoplasmic reticulum-associated cell death pathway. Examination of spinal cord motor neurons of pathogenic mice at different disease stages revealed elevated expression of markers for endoplasmic reticulum stress, confirming an increase in this stress response in vivo. Importantly, the most significant increase was detected presymptomatically, suggesting that endoplasmic reticulum stress may play an early and possibly causal role in disease pathogenesis. Our results therefore indicate that the endoplasmic reticulum stress pathway could potentially be a therapeutic target for spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy and related polyglutamine diseases.
doi:10.1093/brain/awu114
PMCID: PMC4065020  PMID: 24898351
endoplasmic reticulum stress; polyglutamine expansions; motor neuron disease; calcium; SBMA
12.  Targeting impulsivity in Parkinson’s disease using atomoxetine 
Brain  2014;137(7):1986-1997.
In a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study, Kehagia et al. investigate the effects of a single dose of atomoxetine, a selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor, in 25 patients with Parkinson’s disease. Consistent with the presence of a longstanding noradrenergic deficit, atomoxetine improved stopping accuracy, and reduced reflection impulsivity during decision making.
Noradrenergic dysfunction may play a significant role in cognition in Parkinson’s disease due to the early degeneration of the locus coeruleus. Converging evidence from patient and animal studies points to the role of noradrenaline in dopaminergically insensitive aspects of the parkinsonian dysexecutive syndrome, yet the direct effects of noradrenergic enhancement have not to date been addressed. Our aim was to directly investigate these, focusing on impulsivity during response inhibition and decision making. To this end, we administered 40 mg atomoxetine, a selective noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitor to 25 patients with Parkinson’s disease (12 female /13 male; 64.4 ± 6.9 years old) in a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled design. Patients completed an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests addressing response inhibition, decision-making, attention, planning and verbal short term memory. Atomoxetine improved stopping accuracy on the Stop Signal Task [F(1,19) = 4.51, P = 0.047] and reduced reflection impulsivity [F(1,9) = 7.86, P = 0.02] and risk taking [F(1,9) = 9.2, P = 0.01] in the context of gambling. The drug also conferred effects on performance as a function of its measured blood plasma concentration: it reduced reflection impulsivity during information sampling [adjusted R2 = 0.23, F(1,16) = 5.83, P = 0.03] and improved problem solving on the One Touch Stockings of Cambridge [adjusted R2 = 0.29, F(1,17) = 8.34, P = 0.01]. It also enhanced target sensitivity during sustained attention [F(1,9) = 5.33, P = 0.046]. The results of this exploratory study represent the basis of specific predictions in future investigations on the effects of atomoxetine in Parkinson’s disease and support the hypothesis that targeting noradrenergic dysfunction may represent a new parallel avenue of therapy in some of the cognitive and behavioural deficits seen in the disorder.
doi:10.1093/brain/awu117
PMCID: PMC4065022  PMID: 24893708
13.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt087
PMCID: PMC3673464  PMID: 23715097
aphasia; speech; mismatch negativity; MEG; dynamic causal modelling
14.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt079
PMCID: PMC3673456  PMID: 23739917
autism; thalamus; connectivity; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging
15.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt095
PMCID: PMC3673459  PMID: 23687123
iron; NBIA; autophagy; basal ganglia; Rett syndrome
16.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt113
PMCID: PMC3673460  PMID: 23715096
nebulin; nemaline myopathy; muscle fibre weakness; thin filament function
17.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt092
PMCID: PMC3673461  PMID: 23649698
CADASIL; Notch3; protein aggregation; extracellular matrix proteins; cerebrovasculature
18.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt101
PMCID: PMC3673463  PMID: 23739915
multiple sclerosis; complex genetics; genetic risk; immunogenetics; genetic association
19.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt066
PMCID: PMC3673466  PMID: 23576128
moral reasoning; frontotemporal dementia; salience network; default mode network; functional neuroimaging
20.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt106
PMCID: PMC3673467  PMID: 23715094
autism; MRI; gyrification; cortical folding; surface area
21.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt094
PMCID: PMC3673595  PMID: 23649697
diffusion tensor imaging; episodic memory; orbitofrontal cortex; schizophrenia; anterior temporal lobe
22.  Sequestration of multiple RNA recognition motif-containing proteins by C9orf72 repeat expansions 
Brain  2014;137(7):2040-2051.
Expansion of GGGGCC repeats in C9orf72 causes familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia, but the underlying mechanism is unclear. Using RNA pulldown and immunohistochemistry in ALS biosamples, Cooper-Knock et al. identify proteins that bind to the repeat expansions. Disrupted RNA splicing and/or nuclear export may underlie C9orf72-ALS pathogenesis.
GGGGCC repeat expansions of C9orf72 represent the most common genetic variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal degeneration, but the mechanism of pathogenesis is unclear. Recent reports have suggested that the transcribed repeat might form toxic RNA foci that sequester various RNA processing proteins. Consensus as to the identity of the binding partners is missing and whole neuronal proteome investigation is needed. Using RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization we first identified nuclear and cytoplasmic RNA foci in peripheral and central nervous system biosamples from patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with a repeat expansion of C9orf72 (C9orf72+), but not from those patients without a repeat expansion of C9orf72 (C9orf72−) or control subjects. Moreover, in the cases examined, the distribution of foci-positive neurons correlated with the clinical phenotype (t-test P < 0.05). As expected, RNA foci are ablated by RNase treatment. Interestingly, we identified foci in fibroblasts from an asymptomatic C9orf72+ carrier. We next performed pulldown assays, with GGGGCC5, in conjunction with mass spectrometry analysis, to identify candidate binding partners of the GGGGCC repeat expansion. Proteins containing RNA recognition motifs and involved in splicing, messenger RNA nuclear export and/or translation were significantly enriched. Immunohistochemistry in central nervous system tissue from C9orf72+ patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis demonstrated co-localization of RNA foci with SRSF2, hnRNP H1/F, ALYREF and hnRNP A1 in cerebellar granule cells and with SRSF2, hnRNP H1/F and ALYREF in motor neurons, the primary target of pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Direct binding of proteins to GGGGCC repeat RNA was confirmed in vitro by ultraviolet-crosslinking assays. Co-localization was only detected in a small proportion of RNA foci, suggesting dynamic sequestration rather than irreversible binding. Additional immunohistochemistry demonstrated that neurons with and without RNA foci were equally likely to show nuclear depletion of TDP-43 (χ2 P = 0.75) or poly-GA dipeptide repeat protein inclusions (χ2 P = 0.46). Our findings suggest two non-exclusive pathogenic mechanisms: (i) functional depletion of RNA-processing proteins resulting in disruption of messenger RNA splicing; and (ii) licensing of expanded C9orf72 pre-messenger RNA for nuclear export by inappropriate association with messenger RNA export adaptor protein(s) leading to cytoplasmic repeat associated non-ATG translation and formation of potentially toxic dipeptide repeat protein.
doi:10.1093/brain/awu120
PMCID: PMC4065024  PMID: 24866055
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; pathology; genetics; fluorescence imaging
23.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt026
PMCID: PMC3634194  PMID: 23466395
acute brain injury; dendritic beading; astroglial swelling; cortical spreading depolarization; in vivo; two-photon microscopy
24.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt073
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
25.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt074
PMCID: PMC3634201  PMID: 23543484
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy 1F; LGMD1F; TNPO3; transportin 3; c.2771del mutation

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