Cognitive impairment in progressive supranuclear palsy-Richardson's syndrome is related to white matter damage

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Introduction Beside motor symptoms, patients with progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSPs) commonly present cognitive and behavioral disorders. In this study we aimed to assess the structural brain correlates of cognitive impairment in PSPs. Methods We enrolled 23 patients with probable PSP Richardson's syndrome and 15 matched healthy controls. Patients underwent an extensive clinical and neuropsychological evaluation. Cortical thickness measures and diffusion tensor metrics of white matter tracts were obtained. Random forest analysis was used to identify the strongest MRI predictors of cognitive impairment in PSPs at an individual patient level. Results PSPs patients were in a moderate stage of the disease showing mild cognitive deficits with prominent executive dysfunction. Relative to controls, PSPs patients had a focal, bilateral cortical thinning mainly located in the prefrontal/precentral cortex and temporal pole. PSPs patients also showed a distributed white matter damage involving the main tracts including the superior cerebellar peduncle, corpus callosum, corticospinal tract, and extramotor tracts, such as the inferior fronto-occipital, superior longitudinal and uncinate fasciculi, and cingulum, bilaterally. Regional cortical thinning measures did not relate with cognitive features, while white matter damage showed a significant impact on cognitive impairment (r values ranging from −0.80 to 0.74). Conclusions PSPs patients show both focal cortical thinning in dorsolateral anterior regions and a distributed white matter damage involving the main motor and extramotor tracts. White matter measures are highly associated with cognitive deficits. Diffusion tensor MRI metrics are likely to be the most sensitive markers of extramotor deficits in PSPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Cognition
  • Cortical thickness
  • Diffusion tensor MRI
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome
  • White matter damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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