Clinically Meaningful Magnetic Resonance Endpoints Sensitive to Preataxic Spinocerebellar Ataxia Types 1 and 3

Ann Neurol. 2023 Apr;93(4):686-701. doi: 10.1002/ana.26573. Epub 2022 Dec 29.


Objective: This study was undertaken to identify magnetic resonance (MR) metrics that are most sensitive to early changes in the brain in spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) and type 3 (SCA3) using an advanced multimodal MR imaging (MRI) protocol in the multisite trial setting.

Methods: SCA1 or SCA3 mutation carriers and controls (n = 107) underwent MR scanning in the US-European READISCA study to obtain structural, diffusion MRI, and MR spectroscopy data using an advanced protocol at 3T. Morphometric, microstructural, and neurochemical metrics were analyzed blinded to diagnosis and compared between preataxic SCA (n = 11 SCA1, n = 28 SCA3), ataxic SCA (n = 14 SCA1, n = 37 SCA3), and control (n = 17) groups using nonparametric testing accounting for multiple comparisons. MR metrics that were most sensitive to preataxic abnormalities were identified using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses.

Results: Atrophy and microstructural damage in the brainstem and cerebellar peduncles and neurochemical abnormalities in the pons were prominent in both preataxic groups, when patients did not differ from controls clinically. MR metrics were strongly associated with ataxia symptoms, activities of daily living, and estimated ataxia duration. A neurochemical measure was the most sensitive metric to preataxic changes in SCA1 (ROC area under the curve [AUC] = 0.95), and a microstructural metric was the most sensitive metric to preataxic changes in SCA3 (AUC = 0.92).

Interpretation: Changes in cerebellar afferent and efferent pathways underlie the earliest symptoms of both SCAs. MR metrics collected with a harmonized advanced protocol in the multisite trial setting allow detection of disease effects in individuals before ataxia onset with potential clinical trial utility for subject stratification. ANN NEUROL 2023;93:686-701.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Ataxia
  • Cerebellar Ataxia* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / genetics