Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is widely used to visualize atrophic processes that occur during the pathogenesis of spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). T1-weighted images are utilized to rate the atrophy of cerebellar vermis, cerebellar hemispheres, pons and midbrain. Signal changes in the basal ganglia and ponto-cerebellar fibers are evaluated by T2-weighted and proton density-weighted images. However, two-dimensional (2D) images do not allow a reliable quantification of the degree of atrophy. The latter is now possible through the application of three-dimensional (3D) true volumetric methods, which should be used for research purposes. Ideally, these methods should allow automated segmentation of contrast-defined boundaries by using region growing algorithms, which can be applied successfully in structures of the posterior fossa and basal ganglia. Thin slice thickness helps to minimize partial volume effects. Whereas volumetric approaches rely on predetermined anatomical boundaries, voxel-based morphometry has been developed to determine group differences between different types of SCA (cross-sectional studies) or within one SCA entity (longitudinal studies). We will review recent results and how these methods are currently used to (i) separate sporadic and dominantly inherited forms of cerebellar ataxias; (ii) identify specific SCA genotypes; (iii) correlate patho-anatomical changes with SCA disease symptoms or severity; and (iv) visualize and estimate the rate of progression in SCA.
"The phenotype of SCA17 is particularly variable and can be associated with dementia, psychiatric disorders, parkinsonism, dystonia, chorea, spasticity, and epilepsy . Clinical features overlap with many neurodegenerative syndromes and Huntington disease specifically. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Type I autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia (ADCA) is a type of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) characterized by ataxia with other neurological signs, including oculomotor disturbances, cognitive deficits, pyramidal and extrapyramidal dysfunction, bulbar, spinal and peripheral nervous system involvement. The global prevalence of this disease is not known. The most common type I ADCA is SCA3 followed by SCA2, SCA1, and SCA8, in descending order. Founder effects no doubt contribute to the variable prevalence between populations. Onset is usually in adulthood but cases of presentation in childhood have been reported. Clinical features vary depending on the SCA subtype but by definition include ataxia associated with other neurological manifestations. The clinical spectrum ranges from pure cerebellar signs to constellations including spinal cord and peripheral nerve disease, cognitive impairment, cerebellar or supranuclear ophthalmologic signs, psychiatric problems, and seizures. Cerebellar ataxia can affect virtually any body part causing movement abnormalities. Gait, truncal, and limb ataxia are often the most obvious cerebellar findings though nystagmus, saccadic abnormalities, and dysarthria are usually associated. To date, 21 subtypes have been identified: SCA1-SCA4, SCA8, SCA10, SCA12-SCA14, SCA15/16, SCA17-SCA23, SCA25, SCA27, SCA28 and dentatorubral pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA). Type I ADCA can be further divided based on the proposed pathogenetic mechanism into 3 subclasses: subclass 1 includes type I ADCA caused by CAG repeat expansions such as SCA1-SCA3, SCA17, and DRPLA, subclass 2 includes trinucleotide repeat expansions that fall outside of the protein-coding regions of the disease gene including SCA8, SCA10 and SCA12. Subclass 3 contains disorders caused by specific gene deletions, missense mutation, and nonsense mutation and includes SCA13, SCA14, SCA15/16, SCA27 and SCA28. Diagnosis is based on clinical history, physical examination, genetic molecular testing, and exclusion of other diseases. Differential diagnosis is broad and includes secondary ataxias caused by drug or toxic effects, nutritional deficiencies, endocrinopathies, infections and post-infection states, structural abnormalities, paraneoplastic conditions and certain neurodegenerative disorders. Given the autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance, genetic counseling is essential and best performed in specialized genetic clinics. There are currently no known effective treatments to modify disease progression. Care is therefore supportive. Occupational and physical therapy for gait dysfunction and speech therapy for dysarthria is essential. Prognosis is variable depending on the type of ADCA and even among kindreds.
"Discussion In this study we used two in vivo magnetic resonance imaging techniques to make a comprehensive analysis of gray and white matter changes occurring in SCA7 patients. Regarding gray matter, the results showed major changes in cerebellum, similar to those previously reported with both postmortem neuropathological brain tissue analysis, and earlier in vivo MRI technique (Enevoldson et al., 1994; Döhlinger et al., 2008). The analysis was also capable of detecting changes previously found only through the neuropathological analysis, including entorhinal (BA 28, 34), primary motor (precentral gyrus: BA 4) and occipital cortices (cuneus, precuneus, middle occipital gyrus: BA 7, 18, 19 and 31) (Cancel et al., 2000; Holmberg et al., 1998; Rüb et al., 2008). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cerebellar ataxia and visual loss. It is caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the gene encoding the ataxin 7 protein. Visual loss is due to a progressive atrophy of photoreceptor cells that results in macular degeneration in more advanced stages. Initial semiautomatic measures in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on the brain stem have shown a diminished volume mainly in the cerebellum and pons, while T2 images have shown hyperintensities in transverse fibers at the pons. Neuropathological research, however, has shown more widespread brain damage including loss of myelinated fibers. In this study we decided to take advantage of recent MRI methodological advances to further explore the gray and white matter changes that occur in SCA7 patients. We studied nine genetically confirmed SCA7 patients and their matched controls using voxel based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics. As expected, we found significant bilateral gray matter volume reductions (p<0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons) in patients' cerebellar cortex. However, we also found significant bilateral gray matter reductions in pre and postcentral gyrus, inferior and medial frontal, parietal inferior, parahippocampal and occipital cortices. The analysis also showed a decrement in fractional anisotropy (p<0.05, corrected) of SCA7 patients in the cerebellum's white matter, brainstem, cerebellar and cerebral peduncles, midbrain, anterior and posterior internal capsule, external/extreme capsule, corpus callosum, corona radiata, optical radiations, and the occipital, temporal and frontal lobe's white matter. These results confirm previous evidence of widespread damage beyond the cerebellum and the pons in SCA7 patients. They also confirmed previous results that had been only detectable through neuropathological analyses and, more importantly, identified new regions affected by the disease that previous methods could not detect. These new results could help explain the symptom's spectrum that affects these patients.
"Brain MRI showed a cerebellar involvement in all the patients. A diffuse cerebellar atrophy was found in six patients (mean age ± SD: 50.5 ± 16.1 years; four cases with sporadic cerebellar degeneration and two cases with a genetic ataxia, see also ) and two patients exhibited a cerebellar stroke. A gluten ataxia was specifically looked for . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pathophysiological assessment of joint properties and voluntary motion in neurological patients remains a challenge. This is typically the case in cerebellar patients, who exhibit dysmetric movements due to the dysfunction of cerebellar circuitry. Several tools have been developed, but so far most of these tools have remained confined to laboratories, with a lack of standardization. We report on a new device which combines the use of electromyographic (EMG) sensors with haptic technology for the dynamic investigation of wrist properties. The instrument is composed of a drivetrain, a haptic controller and a signal acquisition unit. Angular accuracy is 0.00611 rad, nominal torque is 6 N·m, maximal rotation velocity is 34.907 rad/sec, with a range of motion of –1.0472 to +1.0472 rad. The inertia of the motor and handgrip is 0.004 kg·m². This is the first standardized myohaptic instrument allowing the dynamic characterization of wrist properties, including under the condition of artificial damping. We show that cerebellar patients are unable to adapt EMG activities when faced with an increase in damping while performing fast reversal movements. The instrument allows the extraction of an electrophysiological signature of a cerebellar deficit.
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