BACKGROUND: The pathologic substrates of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are difficult to predict in vivo. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether different pathologic substrates of FTD have distinct patterns of regional atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). DESIGN: Retrospective case study. SETTING: The Institute of Neurology, University College London, and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. Patients Twenty-one cases of FTD selected on pathologic grounds (9 with ubiquitin-positive [tau- and alpha-synuclein-negative] inclusions [FTD-U], 7 with Pick disease [PiD], and 5 with familial FTD with tau exon 10+16 mutations [tau exon 10+16]) and 20 healthy controls were studied. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Patterns of gray matter atrophy in each group as assessed by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and a blinded visual assessment of each MRI study. RESULTS: All pathologic substrates were associated with atrophy that involved the inferior and medial temporal and inferior frontal lobes. Additionally, specific VBM signatures were identified for each subgroup: FTD-U was associated with asymmetric (left > right) temporal lobe atrophy, PiD was associated with severe dorsolateral bifrontal atrophy, and tau exon 10+16 was associated with asymmetric (right > left) medial temporal lobe atrophy. The VBM findings were supported by blinded visual assessment. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that MRI patterns of regional gray matter atrophy constitute signatures of tissue pathology in FTD.
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