Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS) patients exhibit compromised autonomic regulation, reduced breathing drive during sleep, diminished ventilatory responses to chemoreceptor stimulation, and diminished air hunger perception. The syndrome provides an opportunity to partition neural processes regulating breathing and cardiovascular action. No obvious lesions appear with conventional magnetic resonance imaging; however, T2 relaxometry procedures can detect reduced cell or fiber density or diminished myelination not found with routine evaluation. High-resolution T1, proton density, and T2-weighted brain images were collected from 12 patients and 28 age- and gender-matched controls. Voxel-by-voxel T2 maps were generated from the proton density and T2-weighted images and evaluated by voxel-based-relaxometry procedures. Normalized and smoothed T2 maps were compared between groups using analysis of covariance at each voxel, with age and ventricle size included as covariates. Patients showed damaged or maldeveloped tissue, principally right-sided, including white matter from the level of the anterior cingulate cortex caudally to the level of the posterior cingulate and laterally to the posterior superior temporal cortex. Portions of the posterior, mid, and anterior cingulate, as well as the internal capsule, putamen, and globus pallidus and basal forebrain extending to the anterior and medial thalamus were affected. Deficits in the cingulum bundle and mid-hippocampus and ventral prefrontal cortex appeared, as well as the right cerebellar cortex and deep nuclei. Neuroanatomic deficiencies in limbic structures suggest a structural basis for reduced air hunger perception, thermoregulatory and autonomic deficiencies in the syndrome, while cerebellar deficits may also contribute to breathing and cardiovascular dysregulation.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.