Background: Progressive supranuclear palsy is the most common neurodegenerative bradykinetic-rigid syndrome after Parkinson's disease. Several volumetric studies have revealed a widespread cortical and subcortical gray matter atrophy, however the correlations between the pattern of gray matter loss and clinical-cognitive features have been poorly investigated.
Methods: By using 3-T magnetic-resonance imaging and voxel-based morphometry we compared gray matter volume in 15 patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, 15 patients with Parkinson's disease and 15 healthy controls. All patients underwent a clinical and neuropsychological evaluation.
Results: In agreement with previous studies, patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, compared to patients with Parkinson's disease and healthy controls, showed a reduced gray matter volume in several cortical and subcortical areas including cerebellum, frontal, temporal and parahippocampal cortical structures. We did not find any significant gray matter volume changes when comparing patients with Parkinson's disease vs healthy controls. Among different significant correlations between motor-cognitive features and gray matter loss, we detected a significant correlation between fronto-cerebellar gray matter atrophy and executive cognitive impairment in patients with progressive supranuclear palsy.
Conclusions: Our findings confirm that gray matter loss in patients with progressive supranuclear palsy involves several brain areas and suggest that cerebellar atrophy may play a role in the pathogenesis of cognitive dysfunction in patients with progressive supranuclear palsy due to a disruption of its modulation on executive functions.
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