Metabolic brain changes across different levels of cognitive impairment in ALS: a 18F-FDG-PET study


To identify the metabolic changes related to the various levels of cognitive deficits in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using 18F-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (18F-FDG-PET) imaging.


274 ALS patients underwent neuropsychological assessment and brain 18F-FDG-PET at diagnosis. According to the criteria published in 2017, cognitive status was classified as ALS with normal cognition (ALS-Cn, n=132), ALS with behavioural impairment (ALS-Bi, n=66), ALS with cognitive impairment (ALS-Ci, n=30), ALS with cognitive and behavioural impairment (ALS-Cbi, n=26), ALS with frontotemporal dementia (ALS–FTD, n=20). We compared each group displaying some degree of cognitive and/or behavioural impairment to ALS-Cn patients, including age at PET, sex and ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised as covariates.


We identified frontal lobe relative hypometabolism in cognitively impaired patients that resulted more extensive and significant across the continuum from ALS-Ci, through ALS-Cbi, to ALS–FTD. ALS–FTD patients also showed cerebellar relative hypermetabolism. ALS-Bi patients did not show any difference compared with ALS-Cn.


These data support the concept that patients with cognitive impairment have a more widespread neurodegenerative process compared with patients with a pure motor disease: the more severe the cognitive impairment, the more diffuse the metabolic changes. Otherwise, metabolic changes related to pure behavioural impairment need further characterisation.

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