Brain Structural Covariance Networks in Behavioral Variant of Frontotemporal Dementia

Brain Sci. 2021 Feb 4;11(2):192. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11020192.


Recent research on behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) has shown that personality changes and executive dysfunctions are accompanied by a disease-specific anatomical pattern of cortical and subcortical atrophy. We investigated the structural topological network changes in patients with bvFTD in comparison to healthy controls. In particular, 25 bvFTD patients and 20 healthy controls underwent structural 3T MRI. Next, bilaterally averaged values of 34 cortical surface areas, 34 cortical thickness values, and six subcortical volumes were used to capture single-subject anatomical connectivity and investigate network organization using a graph theory approach. Relative to controls, bvFTD patients showed altered small-world properties and decreased global efficiency, suggesting a reduced ability to combine specialized information from distributed brain regions. At a local level, patients with bvFTD displayed lower values of local efficiency in the cortical thickness of the caudal and rostral middle frontal gyrus, rostral anterior cingulate, and precuneus, cuneus, and transverse temporal gyrus. A significant correlation was also found between the efficiency of caudal anterior cingulate thickness and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores in bvFTD patients. Taken together, these findings confirm the selective disruption in structural brain networks of bvFTD patients, providing new insights on the association between cognitive decline and graph properties.

Keywords: MRI; behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia; graph analysis; structural covariance network.