Progression of brain functional connectivity and frontal cognitive dysfunction in ALS

V. Castelnovo, E. Canu, D. Calderaro, N. Riva, B. Poletti, S. Basaia, F. Solca, V. Silani, M. Filippi, F. Agosta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate the progression of resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC) changes in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and their relationship with frontal cognitive alterations. Methods: This is a multicentre, observational and longitudinal study. At baseline and after six months, 25 ALS patients underwent 3D T1-weighted MRI, resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI), and the computerized Test of Attentional Performance (TAP). Using independent component analysis, rs-FC changes of brain networks involving connections to frontal lobes and their relationship with baseline cognitive scores and cognitive changes over time were assessed. With a seed-based approach, rs-FC longitudinal changes of the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) were also explored. Results: After six months, ALS patients showed an increased rs-FC of the left anterior cingulate, left middle frontal gyrus (MFG) and left superior frontal gyrus within the frontostriatal network, and of the left MFG, left supramarginal gyrus and right angular gyrus within the left frontoparietal network. Within the frontostriatal network, a worse baseline performance at TAP divided attention task was associated with an increased rs-FC over time in the left MFG and a worse baseline performance at the category fluency index was related with increased rs-FC over time in the left frontal superior gyrus. After six months, the seed-based rs-FC analysis of the MFG with the whole brain showed decreased rs-FC of the right MFG with frontoparietal regions in patients compared to controls. Conclusions: Rs-FC changes in ALS patients progressed over time within the frontostriatal and the frontoparietal networks and are related to frontal-executive dysfunction. The MFG seems a potential core region in the framework of a frontoparietal functional breakdown, which is typical of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. These findings offer new potential markers for monitoring extra-motor progression in ALS.

Original languageItalian
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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