Structural MRI Signatures in Genetic Presentations of the Frontotemporal Dementia/Motor Neuron Disease Spectrum

Background and Objectives

To assess cortical, subcortical, and cerebellar gray matter (GM) atrophy using MRI in patients with disorders of the frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) spectrum with known genetic mutations.


Sixty-six patients carrying FTLD-related mutations were enrolled, including 44 with pure motor neuron disease (MND) and 22 with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Sixty-one patients with sporadic FTLD (sFTLD) matched for age, sex, and disease severity with genetic FTLD (gFTLD) were also included, as well as 52 healthy controls. A whole-brain voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was performed. GM volumes of subcortical and cerebellar structures were obtained.


Compared with controls, GM atrophy on VBM was greater and more diffuse in genetic FTD, followed by sporadic FTD and genetic MND cases, whereas patients with sporadic MND (sMND) showed focal motor cortical atrophy. Patients carrying C9orf72 and GRN mutations showed the most widespread cortical volume loss, in contrast with GM sparing in SOD1 and TARDBP. Globally, patients with gFTLD showed greater atrophy of parietal cortices and thalami compared with sFTLD. In volumetric analysis, patients with gFTLD showed volume loss compared with sFTLD in the caudate nuclei and thalami, in particular comparing C9-MND with sMND cases. In the cerebellum, patients with gFTLD showed greater atrophy of the right lobule VIIb than sFTLD. Thalamic volumes of patients with gFTLD with a C9orf72 mutation showed an inverse correlation with Frontal Behavioral Inventory scores.


Measures of deep GM and cerebellar structural involvement may be useful markers of gFTLD, particularly C9orf72-related disorders, regardless of the clinical presentation within the FTLD spectrum.

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