The goal of the study was to identify brain and functional features associated with premanifest phases of adult-onset myotonic dystrophy type 1 (i.e., PreDM1).
This cross-sectional study included 68 healthy adults (mean age = 43.4 years, SD = 12.9), 13 individuals with PreDM1 (mean age: 47.4 years, SD = 16.3), and 37 individuals with manifest DM1 (mean age = 45.2 years, SD = 9.3). The primary outcome measures included fractional anisotropy (FA), motor measures (Muscle Impairment Rating Scale, Grooved Pegboard, Finger-Tapping Test, and grip force), general cognitive abilities (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales), sleep quality (Scales for Outcomes in Parkinson’s Disease–Sleep), and apathy (Apathy Evaluation Scale).
Individuals with PreDM1 exhibited an intermediate level of white matter FA abnormality, where whole-brain FA was lower relative to healthy controls (difference of the estimated marginal mean [EMMdifference] = 0.02, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.01–0.03, p < 0.001), but the PreDM1 group had significantly higher FA than did individuals with manifest DM1 (EMMdifference = 0.02, 95% CI 0.009–0.03, p < 0.001). Individuals with PreDM1 exhibited reduced performance on the finger-tapping task relative to control peers (EMMdifference = 5.70, 95% CI 0.51–11.00, p = 0.03), but performance of the PreDM1 group was better than that of the manifest DM1 group (EMMdifference = 5.60, 95% CI 0.11–11.00, p = 0.05). Hypersomnolence in PreDM1 was intermediate between controls (EMMdifference = –1.70, 95% CI –3.10–0.35, p = 0.01) and manifest DM1 (EMMdifference = –2.10, 95% CI –3.50–0.60, p = 0.006).
Our findings highlight key CNS and functional deficits associated with PreDM1, offering insight in early disease course.