[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Stroop color and word test (SCWT) is widely used to evaluate attention, information processing speed, selective attention, and cognitive flexibility. Normative values for the Italian population are available only for selected age groups, or for the short version of the test. The aim of this study was to provide updated normal values for the full version, balancing groups across gender, age decades, and education. Two kinds of indexes were derived from the performance of 192 normal subjects, divided by decade (from 20 to 90) and level of education (4 levels: 3–5; 6–8; 9–13; >13 years). They were (i) the correct answers achieved for each table in the first 30 s (word items, WI; color items, CI; color word items, CWI) and (ii) the total time required for reading the three tables (word time, WT; color time, CT; color word time, CWT). For each index, the regression model was evaluated using age, education, and gender as independent variables. The normative data were then computed following the equivalent scores method. In the regression model, age and education significantly influenced the performance in each of the 6 indexes, whereas gender had no significant effect. This study confirms the effect of age and education on the main indexes of the Stroop test and provides updated normative data for an Italian healthy population, well balanced across age, education, and gender. It will be useful to Italian researchers studying attentional functions in health and disease.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Neurological Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Objective measurement of concomitant finger motor performance is recommended for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies investigating brain activity during finger tapping tasks, because performance modality and ability can influence the selection of different neural networks. In this study, we present a novel glove system for quantitative evaluation of finger opposition movements during fMRI (called Glove Analyzer for fMRI, GAF). Several tests for magnetic resonance (MR) compatibility were performed concerning magnet forces, image artifacts and right functioning of the system. Then, pilot fMRI of finger opposition tasks were conducted at 1.5T and 3T to investigate the neural correlates of sequences of finger opposition movements with the right hand, with simultaneous behavioral recording by means of GAF. All the MR compatibility tests succeeded, and the fMRI analysis revealed mainly the activation of the left sensorimotor areas and right cerebellum, regions that are known to be involved in finger movements. No artifactual clusters were detected in the activation maps. At the same time, through the parameters calculated by GAF it was possible to describe the sensorimotor strategy adopted by the subjects during the required task. Thus, the proposed device resulted to be MR compatible and can be useful for future fMRI studies investigating the neural correlates of finger opposition movements, allowing follow-up studies and comparisons among different groups of patients.
Preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mills syndrome is a rare condition characterized by slowly progressive upper motor neuron-predominant hemiparesis, belonging to the motor neuron disorder spectrum. Predominantly unilateral primary degeneration of corticospinal pathways is the supposed underlying pathophysiological mechanism. By means of (18)F-Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography, we found significant (Statistical Parametric Mapping, SPM, analysis versus controls, uncorrected p < 0.005 at voxel level, p < 0.05 at cluster level, corrected for multiple comparisons) hypometabolism in motor and premotor areas of both hemispheres, mainly contralateral to the limbs weakness in a patient with a 10-year history of slowly progressive left-sided hemiparesis. No significant grey matter loss was found on voxel based morphometry (SPM). This supports the hypothesis of a slowly progressive neurodegenerative process involving primary motor and premotor cortex.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: According to the new research criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, episodic memory impairment, not significantly improved by cueing, is the core neuropsychological marker, even at a pre-dementia stage. The FCSRT assesses verbal learning and memory using semantic cues and is widely used in Europe. Standardization values for the Italian population are available for the colored picture version, but not for the 16-item printed word version. In this study, we present age- and education-adjusted normative data for FCSRT-16 obtained using linear regression techniques and generalized linear model, and critical values for classifying sub-test performance into equivalent scores. Six scores were derived from the performance of 194 normal subjects (MMSE score, range 27-30, mean 29.5 ± 0.5) divided per decade (from 20 to 90), per gender and per level of education (4 levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-13, >13 years): immediate free recall (IFR), immediate total recall (ITR), recognition phase (RP), delayed free recall (DFR), delayed total recall (DTR), Index of Sensitivity of Cueing (ISC), number of intrusions. This study confirms the effect of age and education, but not of gender on immediate and delayed free and cued recall. The Italian version of the FCSRT-16 can be useful for both clinical and research purposes.
Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Neurological Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dimethyl fumarate (DMF), recently approved as an oral immunomodulatory treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), metabolizes to monomethyl fumarate (MMF) which crosses the blood–brain barrier and has demonstrated neuroprotective effects in experimental studies. We postulated that MMF exerts neuroprotective effects through modulation of microglia activation, a critical component of the neuroinflammatory cascade that occurs in neurodegenerative diseases such as MS. To ascertain our hypothesis and define the mechanistic pathways involved in the modulating effect of fumarates, we used real-time PCR and biochemical assays to assess changes in the molecular and functional phenotype of microglia, quantitative Western blotting to monitor activation of postulated pathway components, and ex vivo whole-cell patch clamp recording of excitatory post-synaptic currents in corticostriatal slices from mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a model for MS, to study synaptic transmission. We show that exposure to MMF switches the molecular and functional phenotype of activated microglia from classically activated, pro-inflammatory type to alternatively activated, neuroprotective one, through activation of the hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 2 (HCAR2). We validate a downstream pathway mediated through the AMPK–Sirt1 axis resulting in deacetylation, and thereby inhibition, of NF-κB and, consequently, of secretion of pro-inflammatory molecules. We demonstrate through ex vivo monitoring of spontaneous glutamate-mediated excitatory post-synaptic currents of single neurons in corticostriatal slices from EAE mice that the neuroprotective effect of DMF was exerted on neurons at pre-synaptic terminals by modulating glutamate release. By exposing control slices to untreated and MMF-treated activated microglia, we confirm the modulating effect of MMF on microglia function and, thereby, its indirect neuroprotective effect at post-synaptic level. These findings, whereby DMF-induced activation of a new HCAR2-dependent pathway on microglia leads to the modulation of neuroinflammation and restores synaptic alterations occurring in EAE, represent a possible novel mechanism of action for DMF in MS.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-015-1422-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patients with Multiple Sclerosis (PwMS) with severe sensorimotor and cognitive deficits show reduced ability in motor sequence learning. Conversely, in PwMS with minimal disability (EDSS≤2), showing only subtle neurological impairments and no particular deficits in everyday life activities, motor sequence learning has been poorly addressed. Here, we investigated whether PwMS with minimal disability already show a specific impairment in motor sequence learning and which component of this process can be first affected in MS.
We implemented a serial reaction time task based on thumb-to-finger opposition movements in response to visual stimuli. Each session included 14 blocks of 120 stimuli presented randomly or in ten repetitions of a 12-item sequence. Random (R) and sequence (S) blocks were temporally alternated (R1, R2, S1÷S5, R3, S6÷S10, R4). Random blocks were designed to evaluate the motor component; sequence blocks, beside the motor component, allowed to discriminate the procedural performance.
Twenty-two PwMS and 22 control healthy subjects were asked to perform the task under implicit or explicit instructions (11 subjects for each experimental condition).
PwMS with minimal disability improved motor performance in random blocks reducing response time with practice with a trend similar to control subjects, suggesting that short-term learning of simple motor tasks is nearly preserved at this disease stage. Conversely, they found difficulties in sequence-specific learning in implicit and explicit condition, with more pronounced impairment in the implicit condition. These findings could suggest an involvement of different circuits in implicit and explicit sequence learning that could deteriorate at different disease stages.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Optimal patient selection would improve the risk-benefit ratio of natalizumab treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR MS). Clinical features of subjects responding to natalizumab have not been univocally recognized.
Longitudinal data on RR MS patients treated with natalizumab in Liguria, Italy are reported. Predictors of relapse occurrence and disability improvement were analyzed with a logistic regression method in subjects treated for one year (N = 62). A new score, called “Better EDSS Trend (BET)”, was devised to describe the impact of the treatment on disability. Changes in annualized relapse rate (ARR) and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) after one and two years and proportion of disease-free patients were evaluated.
Previous EDSS worsening plus ARR ≥ 2 increased the risk of relapse during the treatment [Odds Ratio (OR) 4.12, P = 0.04], but this was not associated with an increase in disability at one year. EDSS 3.0-3.5 or high disease activity were associated with neurological improvement in the first year of treatment (respectively OR 5.78, P = 0.05 and OR 4.80, P = 0.05). Positive BET score, i.e. improvement in the disability trend, was observed in 40.3% of patients, and correlated with high ARR in the year before treatment (OR 1.69, P = 0.03).
Subjects with EDSS 3.0-3.5 and those with very active disease in the year before treatment are most likely to improve in neurological function under natalizumab. A relapse in the first year of treatment is associated to high pre-treatment disease activity; however, since the occurrence of a relapse did not have a negative impact on clinical improvement at one year, we suggest that it should not lead to treatment discontinuation. We propose BET as an additional endpoint of treatment response in MS.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) fingolimod prevents disease relapses and delays disability progression. First dose administration of fingolimod is associated with a transient, dose-dependent decrease in heart rate (HR) in the 6 hours after drug intake.The aim of the study is to to assess safety and tolerability of the first dose of fingolimod in a cohort of Italian patients with RRMS without alternative therapeutic options.
Open-label, single arm, multicentre study. After the first dose of fingolimod, patients were observed for 6 hours and had their vital signs monitored hourly. Extended on-site monitoring was provided when required.
Of the 906 patients enrolled in the study, most (95.2%) did not experience any adverse event (AE) following fingolimod administration. Cardiovascular AEs occurred in 18 patients and included bradycardia (1.3%), first-and second-degree atrioventricular block (0.1% and 0.2%), palpitations (0.1%), sinus arrhythmia (0.1%) and ventricular premature beats (0.1%). All events were self-limiting and did not require any intervention. Extended monitoring was required in 34 patients.
These results, in a population who better resembled real-world clinical practice in terms of concomitant diseases and medications, are consistent with previous clinical trials and confirmed that the first dose administration of fingolimod is generally safe and well tolerated.Trial registration: EudraCT 2011-000770-60.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the last few years, several imaging methods, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography, have been used to investigate the degree of blood–brain barrier (BBB) permeability in patients with neurological diseases including multiple sclerosis, ischemic stroke, and brain tumors. One promising MRI method for assessing the BBB permeability of patients with neurological diseases in vivo is T1-weighted dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE)-MRI. Here we review the technical issues involved in DCE-MRI in the study of human brain tumors. In the first part of this paper, theoretical models for the DCE-MRI analysis will be described, including the Toft–Kety models, the adiabatic approximation to the tissue homogeneity model and the two-compartment exchange model. These models can be used to estimate important kinetic parameters related to BBB permeability. In the second part of this paper, details of the data acquisition, issues related to the arterial input function, and procedures for DCE-MRI image analysis are illustrated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Upper limb impairments can occur in patients with multiple sclerosis, affecting daily living activities; however there is at present no definite agreement on the best rehabilitation treatment strategy to pursue. Moreover, motor training has been shown to induce changes in white matter architecture in healthy subjects. This study aimed at evaluating the motor behavioral and white matter microstructural changes following a 2-month upper limb motor rehabilitation treatment based on task-oriented exercises in patients with multiple sclerosis. Thirty patients (18 females and 12 males; age=43.3±8.7years) in a stable phase of the disease presenting with mild or moderate upper limb sensorimotor deficits were randomized into two groups of 15 patients each. Both groups underwent twenty 1-hour treatment sessions, three times a week. The "treatment group" received an active motor rehabilitation treatment, based on voluntary exercises including task-oriented exercises, whilst the "control group" underwent passive mobilization of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers. Before and after the rehabilitation protocols, motor performance was evaluated in all patients with standard tests. Additionally, finger motor performance accuracy was assessed by an engineered glove. In the same sessions, every patient underwent diffusion tensor imaging to obtain parametric maps of fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity. The mean value of each parameter was separately calculated within regions of interest including the fiber bundles connecting brain areas involved in voluntary movement control: the corpus callosum, the corticospinal tracts and the superior longitudinal fasciculi. The two rehabilitation protocols induced similar effects on unimanual motor performance, but the bimanual coordination task revealed that the residual coordination abilities were maintained in the treated patients whilst they significantly worsened in the control group (p=0.002). Further, in the treatment group white matter integrity in the corpus callosum and corticospinal tracts was preserved whilst a microstructural integrity worsening was found in the control group (fractional anisotropy of the corpus callosum and corticospinal tracts: p=0.033 and p=0.022; radial diffusivity of the corpus callosum and corticospinal tracts: p=0.004 and p=0.008). Conversely, a significant increase of radial diffusivity was observed in the superior longitudinal fasciculi in both groups (p=0.02), indicating a lack of treatment effects on this structure, showing damage progression likely due to a demyelination process. All these findings indicate the importance of administering, when possible, a rehabilitation treatment consisting of voluntary movements. We also demonstrated that the beneficial effects of a rehabilitation treatment are task-dependent and selective in their target; this becomes crucial towards the implementation of tailored rehabilitative approaches.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Concerning intravenous thrombolysis, only inconclusive data are available for patients older than 90. We retrospectively evaluated 11 such patients whom we treated with thrombolysis from June 2007 through April 2012, comparing them to 41 patients of the same age whom we treated conventionally in the same period. Baseline clinical data were superimposable, except for shorter onset-to-hospital time for thrombolyzed patients. Mortality and hemorrhagic transformation did not differ. Functional status (modified Rankin scale) 3 months after was better in treated patients, even when compared to controls who arrived early in the hospital. Treated patients were more often discharged home or to intensive rehabilitation, less often to a nursing home. We conclude that safety and effectiveness of intravenous thrombolysis in eligible nonagenarians are evident in a setting of everyday practice, and that patients 90 years or older should not be denied thrombolysis solely on the basis of their age.
No preview · Article · Jul 2013 · European Neurology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Subjective fatigue is a typical symptom in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) even in the earliest stages of the disease. The relationship between persistent fatigue and motor task performance is still unclear. Aim of this study was to better investigate this relationship at both the motor behavioral and neuroanatomical levels. Towards this goal, we combined a quantitative evaluation of an undemanding finger motor task with concurrent brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a group of MS patients with minimal disability but reporting persistent subjective fatigue. We found an unexpected significant positive correlation between persistent subjective fatigue and task-related temporal accuracy, revealing a "fatigue-motor performance paradox". fMRI analysis indicated that this association is potentially mediated by cerebellar and orbitofrontal cortex activity, suggesting a role of these regions in developing subjective fatigue. Our data point to a possible adaptive role for fatigue as the subjective correlate of increased resource demand for motor activities.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Scientific Reports
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To address the disability impact on fine hand motor functions in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) by quantitatively measuring finger opposition movements, with the aim of providing a new "score" integrating current methods for disability assessment.
40 MS patients (Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS): 0-7) and 80 healthy controls (HC) performed a repetitive finger-to-thumb opposition sequence with their dominant hand at spontaneous and maximal velocity, and uni- and bi-manually metronome-paced. A sensor-engineered glove was used to measure finger motor performance. Twenty-seven HC were tested twice, one month apart, to assess test-retest reliability.
The motor parameters showed a good reproducibility in HC and demonstrated significantly worse performance in MS patients with respect to HC. A multivariate model revealed that rate of movement in the spontaneous velocity condition and inter-hand interval (IHI), indicating bimanual coordination, contributed independently to differentiate the two groups. A finger motor impairment score based on these two parameters was able to discriminate HC from MS patients with very low EDSS scores (p<0.001): a significant difference was already evident for patients with EDSS = 0. Further, in the MS group, some motor performance parameters correlated with the clinical scores. In particular, significant correlations were found between IHI and EDSS (r = 0.56; p<0.0001), MS Functional Composite (r = -0.40; p = 0.01), Paced Auditory Serial Addition (r = -0.38; p = 0.02). No motor performance parameter correlated with Timed 25-Foot Walk.
A simple, quantitative, objective method measuring finger motor performance could be used to define a score discriminating healthy controls and MS patients, even with very low disability. This sensitivity might be of crucial importance for monitoring the disease course and the treatment effects in early MS patients, when changes in the EDSS are small or absent.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological disease where, in genetically predisposed individuals, the unbalanced interplay between pathogenic and regulatory T cells will result in the progression of the autoimmune assault to neural antigens. Fingolimod (FTY720), an oral sphingosine 1-phosphate modulator recently approved for the treatment of MS, inhibits the egress of T cells from lymph nodes acting specifically on naïve and memory T cells and sparing effector T cells. Here we characterized IL-17 and IFNγ producing effector CD4 and CD8 positive T cells as well as CD4 positive CD25(high)CD127(low) regulatory T cells in MS patients before and 1 month after treatment was started. We observed that fingolimod did not significantly affect the percentage of CCR6 and CD161 positive T cells in both CD4 and CD8 compartments. In contrast, it significantly reduced the levels of both CD4+ CCR6+ CD161+ and CD8+ CCR6+ CD161+ producing IFNγ alone or in combination with IL-17. The percentage of IL-17 secreting cells in both subsets was affected by the treatment to a lesser extent. Finally, we observed that CD4+ CD25(high)CD127(low) regulatory T cells were decreased in MS patients compared to healthy controls and fingolimod significantly increased their frequencies. All together these findings demonstrate that fingolimod functionally modulates the ability of potentially pathogenic effector cells to produce relevant pro-inflammatory cytokines and increases the number of circulating regulatory T cells possibly contributing in restoring a balance between these populations.
Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of measuring different permeability parameters with T1-weighted dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to investigate the blood brain-barrier permeability associated with different brain tumors. The Patlak algorithm and the extended Tofts-Kety model were used to this aim. Twenty-five adult patients with tumors of different histological grades were enrolled in this study. MRI examinations were performed at 1.5 T. Multiflip angle, fast low-angle shot, and axial 3D T1-weighted images were acquired to calculate T1 maps, followed by a DCE acquisition. A region of interest was placed within the tumor of each patient to calculate the mean value of different permeability parameters. Differences in permeability measurements were found between different tumor grades, with higher histological grades characterized by higher permeability values. A significant difference in transfer constant () values was found between the two methods on high-grade tumors; however, both techniques revealed a significant correlation between the histological grade of tumors and their values. Our results suggest that DCE acquisition is feasible in patients with brain tumors and that maps can be easily obtained by these two algorithms, even if the theoretical model adopted could affect the final results.