Background and purpose: Neurodegeneration in spinocerebellar ataxia type 1(SCA1) and 2(SCA2) is associated with white matter(WM) damage. Voxel-Based Morphometry(VBM), histogram analysis of mean diffusivity(MD) and Tract-Based Spatial Statistics(TBSS) enable an in vivo quantitative analysis of WM volume and structure. We assessed with these 3 techniques the whole brain WM damage in SCA1 and SCA2.
Patients and methods: Ten patients with SCA1, 10 patients with SCA2 and 10 controls underwent MRI with acquisition of T1-weighted and diffusion tensor images. The results were correlated with severity of clinical deficit.
Results: VBM showed atrophy of the brainstem and cerebellar WM without significant differences between SCA1 and SCA2. Focal atrophy of the cerebral subcortical WM was also present. Histogram analysis revealed increased MD in the brainstem and cerebellum in patients with SCA1 and SCA2 which in SCA2 was more pronounced and combined with mild increase of the MD in the cerebral hemispheres in SCA2. In SCA1 and SCA2 TBSS revealed decreased fractional anisotropy(FA) in the inferior, middle and superior cerebellar peduncles, pontine transverse fibres, medial and lateral lemnisci, spinothalamic tracts, corticospinal tracts and corpus callosum. The extent of tract changes was greater in SCA2 patients who also showed decreased FA in the short intracerebellar tracts. In both diseases VBM, histogram and TBSS results correlated with clinical severity.
Conclusions: Brain WM damage featuring a pontocerebeellar atrophy is similar in SCA1 and SCA2 but more pronounced in SCA2. In both diseases it correlates with severity of the clinical deficit.