Exposing asymmetric gray matter vulnerability in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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Devine, Matthew S. ; Pannek, Kerstin ; Coulthard, Alan ; McCombe, Pamela A. ; Rose, Stephen E. ; Henderson, Robert D. (2015)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Journal: NeuroImage : Clinical, volume 7, pages 782-787 (issn: 2213-1582, eissn: 2213-1582)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC4375643, doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2015.03.006
  • Subject: R858-859.7 | Motor neuron disease | Computer applications to medicine. Medical informatics | Neurology. Diseases of the nervous system | RC346-429 | ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis | Voxel-based morphometry | Asymmetry | LMN, lower motor neuron | Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis | Limb dominance | Regular Article | VBM, voxel-based morphometry | UMN, upper motor neuron | GM, gray matter

Limb weakness in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is typically asymmetric. Previous studies have identified an effect of limb dominance on onset and spread of weakness, however relative atrophy of dominant and non-dominant brain regions has not been investigated. Our objective was to use voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to explore gray matter (GM) asymmetry in ALS, in the context of limb dominance. 30 ALS subjects were matched with 17 healthy controls. All subjects were right-handed. Each underwent a structural MRI sequence, from which GM segmentations were generated. Patterns of GM atrophy were assessed in ALS subjects with first weakness in a right-sided limb (n = 15) or left-sided limb (n = 15). Within each group, a voxelwise comparison was also performed between native and mirror GM images, to identify regions of hemispheric GM asymmetry. Subjects with ALS showed disproportionate atrophy of the dominant (left) motor cortex hand area, irrespective of the side of first limb weakness (p < 0.01). Asymmetric atrophy of the left somatosensory cortex and temporal gyri was only observed in ALS subjects with right-sided onset of limb weakness. Our VBM protocol, contrasting native and mirror images, was able to more sensitively detect asymmetric GM pathology in a small cohort, compared with standard methods. These findings indicate particular vulnerability of dominant upper limb representation in ALS, supporting previous clinical studies, and with implications for cortical organisation and selective vulnerability.
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