Neural correlates of ataxia severity in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3/Machado-Joseph disease

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Background: Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3/Machado-Joseph disease (SCA3/MJD) is an autosomal dominant inherited neurodegenerative disorder. Several post-mortem and imaging studies have shown cerebellar and brainstem atrophy. A number of studies have used volumetric regional information to investigate the relationship between neurodegeneration and the ataxia severity. However, regional analysis can obscure the specific location in which the degenerative process is affecting the brain tissue, which can be crucial for the development of new target treatments for this disease. Here we explored the relationship between the gray matter degeneration and the ataxia severity on a cohort of SCA3 patients using a voxel-wise approach. Methods: Seventeen patients with molecular diagnose of SCA3 and 17 matched healthy controls participated in this study. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain images were acquired and voxel-based morphometry was used to obtain the grey matter volume of each participant. Ataxia severity in the patient group was evaluated using the scale for the assessment and rating of ataxia (SARA). Results: Group comparison revealed significant atrophy in SCA3 including bilateral cerebellum, vermis, brainstem, and occipital cortex. Significant negative correlations between gray matter volume and SARA scores were found in the cerebellum and the cingulate gyrus. Conclusions: These findings highlight the specific contribution of the cerebellum and the cingulate cortex to the ataxia deficits among the other regions showing neurodegeneration in SCA3 patients.




Hernandez-Castillo, C. R., Diaz, R., Campos-Romo, A., & Fernandez-Ruiz, J. (2017). Neural correlates of ataxia severity in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3/Machado-Joseph disease. Cerebellum and Ataxias, 4(1).

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