The adult form of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) presents with paradoxical inconsistencies between severity of brain damage, relative preservation of cognition, and failure in everyday life. This study, based on the assessment of brain connectivity and mechanisms of plasticity, aimed at reconciling these conflicting issues. Resting-state functional MRI and graph theoretical methods of analysis were used to assess brain topological features in a large cohort of patients with DM1. Patients, compared to controls, revealed reduced connectivity in a large frontoparietal network that correlated with their isolated impairment in visuospatial reasoning. Despite a global preservation of the topological properties, peculiar patterns of frontal disconnection and increased parietal-cerebellar connectivity were also identified in patients' brains. The balance between loss of connectivity and compensatory mechanisms in different brain networks might explain the paradoxical mismatch between structural brain damage and minimal cognitive deficits observed in these patients. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of brain abnormalities that fit well with both motor and nonmotor clinical features experienced by patients in their everyday life. The current findings suggest that measures of functional connectivity may offer the possibility of characterizing individual patients with the potential to become a clinical tool.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology