Recent studies suggest a framework where white-matter (WM) atrophy plays an important role in fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) pathophysiology. However, these studies often overlook the fact that WM tracts bridging different brain regions may have different vulnerabilities to the disease and the relative contribution of grey-matter (GM) atrophy to this WM model, resulting in a less comprehensive understanding of the relationship between clinical symptoms and pathology. Using a common factor analysis to extract a semantic and an executive factor, we aimed to test the relative contribution of WM and GM of specific tracts in predicting cognition in the Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Neuroimaging Initiative (FTLDNI). We found that semantic symptoms were mainly dependent on short-range WM fibre disruption, while damage to long-range WM fibres was preferentially associated to executive dysfunction with the GM contribution to cognition being predominant for local processing. These results support the importance of the disruption of specific WM tracts to the core cognitive symptoms associated with FTD. As large-scale WM tracts, which are particularly vulnerable to vascular disease, were highly associated with executive dysfunction, our findings highlight the importance of controlling for risk factors associated with deep WM disease, such as vascular risk factors, in patients with FTD in order not to potentiate underlying executive dysfunction.
Keywords: DTI; FTD; MRI; dementia; grey matter; human; neuroscience; white matter.
© 2022, Savard et al.