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Pontine atrophy precedes cerebellar degeneration in spinocerebellar ataxia 7: MRI-based volumetric analysis


Background and objective: Spinocerebellar ataxia 7 (SCA7) is characterised by cerebellar ataxia and visual loss. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) findings characteristic of patients with SCA7.

Methods: Twenty patients with SCA (eight SCA3, three SCA6, and nine SCA7) and 20 control subjects underwent an MRI-based volumetric analysis.

Results: The pontine volume in patients with SCA7 was decreased by a greater amount than in patients with other types of SCA (p<0.01), whereas the cerebellar volume was not different from that in other types of SCA (p>0.05). Pontine atrophy was a consistent finding in all patients with SCA7 regardless of the degree of cerebellar atrophy or the severity or duration of illness. In contrast, cerebellar atrophy was not found in those with a short duration of illness or mild ataxia, but became prominent as the severity and duration of illness progressed.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that neurodegeneration is ongoing during the life of individuals with SCA7, and that the primary pathology in these individuals involves the brainstem rather than the cerebellum. In addition, pontine atrophy is a prominent, consistent finding in SCA7, and may help in establishing the clinical diagnosis of SCA7.

  • DRPLA, dentatorubral pallidoluysian atrophy
  • HD, Huntington’s disease
  • MRI, magnetic resonance imaging
  • SCA, spinocerebellar ataxia
  • cerebellum
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • pons
  • spinocerebellar ataxia 7
  • volumetry

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