Brain involvement in myotonic dystrophies: Neuroimaging and neuropsychological comparative study in DM1 and DM2

Vincenzo Romeo, E. Pegoraro, C. Ferrati, F. Squarzanti, G. Sorarù, A. Palmieri, P. Zucchetta, L. Antunovic, E. Bonifazi, G. Novelli, C. P. Trevisan, M. Ermani, R. Manara, C. Angelini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this study was to determine the degree of brain involvement in a cohort of myotonic dystrophy type 1 and type 2 (DM1, DM2) patients by brain studies and functional tests and to compare the results of the two groups. DM1, DM2 are multisystemic disorders due to polynucleotide expansions. Previous studies on brain involvement by neuroimaging and functional methods have led to contradictory results. Fifty molecularly defined DM1 patients and 14 DM2 patients, were recruited for the study. Age at recruitment, age at disease onset, disease duration and educational level were recorded. Neuromuscular assessment was done by MIRS. An extensive neuropsychological battery was performed in 48/50 DM1 and in a control group of 44 healthy matched subjects. Forty six of 50 DM1 and 12/14 DM2 underwent brain MRI; 21/50 DM1 and 9/14 DM2 underwent brain perfusion SPECT, with semiquantitative analysis of the results. MRI images were classified by ARWMC (age-related white matter changes) score, in order to quantify recurrence, localization and patterns of distribution of white matter hyperintense lesions (WMHLs) in our two cohorts. MRI results were matched to SPECT and to neuropsychological results. Thirty-seven of 46 DM1 and 10/12 DM2 had abnormal MRI imaging, showing scattered supratentorial, bilateral, symmetrical focal or diffuse WMHLs. A typical temporo-insular diffuse subcortical pattern was seen in DM1 subjects only, with no correlation with cognitive involvement. Major cognitive involvement was seen in the case of diffuse frontal lesions. A relationship with CTG expansion size was documented for DM1 subjects. SPECT showed minimal hypoperfusion in the posterior cortex planes in DM1 and, to a lesser extent, in DM2. Very mild degrees of involvement in the DM2 cohort were seen. Neuroimaging and functional investigations confirmed a more severe involvement of the brain in DM1 compared to DM2. A temporo-insular diffuse lesional pattern, specific for DM1, was found on MRI. This confirms greater expansion size as a risk factor for more extensive brain involvement in DM1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1246-1255
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Brain involvement
  • DM1
  • DM2
  • MRI
  • Myotonic dystrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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