Widespread sensorimotor and frontal cortical atrophy in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Dept. of Neurology, Medical School Hannover, Hannover, Germany.
BMC Neurology (Impact Factor: 2.49). 01/2006; 6:17. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2377-6-17
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Widespread cortical atrophy in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) has been described in neuropathological studies. The presence of cortical atrophy in conventional and scientific neuroimaging has been a matter of debate. In studies using computertomography, positron emission tomography, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy and conventional T2-weighted and proton-weighted images, results have been variable. Recent morphometric studies by magnetic resonance imaging have produced conflicting results regarding the extent of grey and white matter involvement in ALS patients.
The authors used optimized voxel-based morphometry as an unbiased whole brain approach to detect differences between regional grey and white matter volumes. Seventeen patients with a diagnosis of ALS according to El-Escorial criteria and seventeen age-matched controls received a high resolution anatomical T1 scan.
In ALS patients regional grey matter volume (GMV) reductions were found in the pre- and postcentral gyrus bilaterally which extended to premotor, parietal and frontal regions bilaterally compared with controls (p < 0.05, corrected for the entire volume). The revised ALS functional rating scale showed a positive correlation with GMV reduction of the right medial frontal gyrus corresponding to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. No significant differences were found for white matter volumes or when grey and white matter density images were investigated. There were no further correlations with clinical variables found.
In ALS patients, primary sensorimotor cortex atrophy can be regarded as a prominent feature of the disease. Supporting the concept of ALS being a multisystem disorder, our study provides further evidence for extramotor involvement which is widespread. The lack of correlation with common clinical variables probably reflects the fact that heterogeneous disease processes underlie ALS. The discrepancy within all published morphometric studies in ALS so far may be related to differences in patient cohorts and several methodological factors of the data analysis process. Longitudinal studies are required to further clarify the time course and distribution of grey and white matter pathology during the course of ALS.

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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is characterized by progressive loss of upper and lower motor neurons. Advanced MRI techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging have shown great potential in capturing a common white matter pathology. However the sensitivity is variable and diffusion tensor imaging is not yet applicable to the routine clinical environment. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) has revealed grey matter changes in ALS, but the bias-reducing algorithms inherent to traditional VBM are not optimized for the assessment of the white matter changes. We have developed a novel approach to white matter analysis, namely voxel-based intensitometry (VBI). High resolution T1-weighted MRI was acquired at 1.5 Tesla in 30 ALS patients and 37 age-matched healthy controls. VBI analysis at the group level revealed widespread white matter intensity increases in the corticospinal tracts, corpus callosum, sub-central, frontal and occipital white matter tracts and cerebellum. VBI results correlated with disease severity (ALSFRS-R) and patterns of cerebral involvement differed between bulbar- and limb-onset. VBI would be easily translatable to the routine clinical environment, and once optimized for individual analysis offers significant biomarker potential in ALS.
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have shown that in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) multiple motor and extra-motor regions display structural and functional alterations. However, their temporal dynamics during disease-progression are unknown. To address this question we employed a longitudinal design assessing motor- and novelty-related brain activity in two fMRI sessions separated by a 3-month interval. In each session, patients and controls executed a Go/NoGo-task, in which additional presentation of novel stimuli served to elicit hippocampal activity. We observed a decline in the patients’ movement-related activity during the 3-month interval. Importantly, in comparison to controls, the patients’ motor activations were higher during the initial measurement. Thus, the relative decrease seems to reflect a breakdown of compensatory mechanisms due to progressive neural loss within the motor-system. In contrast, the patients’ novelty-evoked hippocampal activity increased across 3 months, most likely reflecting the build-up of compensatory processes typically observed at the beginning of lesions. Consistent with a stage-dependent emergence of hippocampal and motor-system lesions, we observed a positive correlation between the ALSFRS-R or MRC-Megascores and the decline in motor activity, but a negative one with the hippocampal activation-increase. Finally, to determine whether the observed functional changes co-occur with structural alterations, we performed voxel-based volumetric analyses on magnetization transfer images in a separate patient cohort studied cross-sectionally at another scanning site. Therein, we observed a close overlap between the structural changes in this cohort, and the functional alterations in the other. Thus, our results provide important insights into the temporal dynamics of functional alterations during disease-progression, and provide support for an anatomical relationship between functional and structural cerebral changes in ALS.
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    ABSTRACT: Involvement of the corpus callosum (CC) is reported to be a consistent feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We examined the CC pathology using diffusion tensor tractography analysis to identify precisely which fiber bundles are involved in ALS.
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