Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging, we studied the cerebellum of 9 patients with cerebellar degeneration and of 9 age-matched normal control subjects. This technique permits the simultaneous measurement of N-acetylaspartate, choline-containing compounds, creatine/phosphocreatine, and lactate signal intensities from four 15-ram slices divided into 0.84-ml single-volume elements. Because patients with cerebellar degeneration often show substantial atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we specifically chose to analyze the spectroscopic signals only from tissue that did not have an atrophic appearance on the MRI. The spectroscopic findings showed a significant reduction of N-acetylaspartate in all parts of the cerebellum, a significant correlation with MRI scores of cerebellar atrophy, and a significant correlation with clinical rating scores of cerebellar disturbance. Our method of analysis suggests the presence of a neurodegenerative process in cerebellar areas that do not appear to be atrophic on the MRI. Some limitations of proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging in the present study were related to the partial field inhomogeneity characteristics of the posterior fossa, the anatomical location of the cerebellum, and the particularly severe cerebellar atrophy in some of the patients.
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