The cerebellar topography of attention sub-components in spinocerebellar ataxia type 2

Cortex. 2018 Nov;108:35-49. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2018.07.011. Epub 2018 Jul 31.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease characterized by a progressive cerebellar syndrome and multiple-domain cognitive impairments. The cerebellum is known to contribute to distinct functional networks related to higher-level functions. The aims of the present study were to investigate the different sub-components of attention and to analyse possible correlations between attention deficits and specific cerebellar regions in SCA2 patients. To this purpose, 11 SCA2 patients underwent an exhaustive attention battery that evaluated several attention sub-components. The SCA2 group performed below the normal range in tasks assessing selective attention, divided attention, and sustained attention, obtaining negative Z-scores. These results were confirmed by non-parametric Mann-Whitney U tests that showed significant differences between SCA2 and control subjects in the same sub-components of the attention battery, allowing us to speculate on cerebellar involvement when a high cognitive demand is required (i.e., multisensory integration, sequencing, prediction of events, and inhibition of inappropriate response behaviours). The voxel-based morphometry analysis showed a pattern of significantly reduced grey matter volume in specific cerebellar lobules. In particular, the SCA2 patients showed significant grey matter loss in bilateral regions of the anterior cerebellar hemisphere (IV) and in the posterior lobe (VI-IX) and posterior vermis (VI-IX). Statistical analysis found significant correlations between grey matter reductions in the VIIb/VIIIa cerebellar lobules and impairments in Sustained and Divided Attention tasks and between grey matter reduction in the vermal VI lobule and impairment in the Go/NoGo task. For the first time, the study demonstrated the involvement of specific cerebellar lobules in different sub-components of the attention domain, giving further support to the inclusion of the cerebellum within the attention network.

Keywords: Attention; Cerebellum; MRI; Neurodegenerative disorder; Topography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molybdoferredoxin
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / physiopathology*


  • Molybdoferredoxin