Neural network breakdown is a key issue in neurodegenerative disease, but the mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we investigated patterns of brain atrophy produced by defined molecular lesions in the two common forms of genetically mediated frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Nine patients with progranulin (GRN) mutations and eleven patients with microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) mutations had T1 MR brain imaging. Brain volumetry and grey and white matter voxel-based morphometry (VBM) were used to assess patterns of cross-sectional atrophy in the two groups. In a subset of patients with longitudinal MRI rates of whole-brain atrophy were derived using the brain-boundary-shift integral and a VBM-like analysis of voxel-wise longitudinal volume change was performed. The GRN mutation group showed asymmetrical atrophy whereas the MAPT group showed symmetrical atrophy. Brain volumes were smaller in the GRN group with a faster rate of whole-brain atrophy. VBM delineated a common anterior cingulate-prefrontal-insular pattern of atrophy in both disease groups. Additional disease-specific profiles of grey and white matter loss were identified on both cross-sectional and longitudinal imaging: GRN mutations were associated with asymmetrical inferior frontal, temporal and inferior parietal lobe grey matter atrophy and involvement of long intrahemispheric association white matter tracts, whereas MAPT mutations were associated with symmetrical anteromedial temporal lobe and orbitofrontal grey matter atrophy and fornix involvement. The findings suggest that the effects of GRN and MAPT mutations are expressed in partly overlapping but distinct anatomical networks that link specific molecular dysfunction with clinical phenotype.
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