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Brain structural damage in Friedreich’s ataxia


Objective: Neuropathological descriptions of the brain in Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) were obtained before availability of the current molecular genetic tests for this disease. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) enables an unbiased whole-brain quantitative analysis of differences in gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volume.

Methods: Using VBM, we assessed the brain structural damage in 22 patients with genetically confirmed FRDA and 25 healthy controls. The results were correlated with the disease duration and the severity of the patients’ clinical deficits—evaluated using the International Cerebellar Ataxia Rating Scale and Inherited Ataxia Clinical Rating Scale.

Results: In patients with FRDA, VBM showed a symmetrical volume loss in dorsal medulla, infero-medial portions of the cerebellar hemispheres, the rostral vermis and in the dentate region. No volume loss in cerebral hemispheres was observed. The atrophy of the cerebellum and medulla correlated with the severity of the clinical deficit and disease duration.

Conclusions: In patients with FRDA, significant GM and WM loss was observed only in the cerebellum and dorsal medulla. These structural changes correlate with the severity of the clinical deficit and disease duration.

  • Voxel-based morphometry
  • ataxia
  • Friedreich’s ataxia

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