Background HD is a suitable model to monitor the whole neurodegeneration process. Huntington’s disease (HD) affects primarily the striatum, but loss of white matter (WM) integrity and iron homeostasis disruption have been also described. These anomalies together with metabolite profiles could unveil the pathophysiologic mechanisms involved.
Aims To assess the temporal and spatial progression of neurodegeneration on both anterior thalamic radiations (ATR).
Methods Thirty-one HD gene carriers and twenty-four controls underwent neuropsychological evaluation and were scanned at 3T-MRI unit. A multimodal study was conducted to measure relaxometry, diffusivity and spectroscopy as proxies of iron, WM microstructure and metabolite composition, respectively. Three statistical approaches (average, segmental, along-the-tract) were performed, with MANOVA and post-hoc Tukey test to evaluate differences among groups and Pearson test to assess correlations.
Results ATR disintegration began in premanifest individuals and progressed in extent and severity in manifest patients. WM damage was more extensive in the right ATR that could translate a higher vulnerability and showed a spatial gradient from subcortical to deep WM in favour of the dying-back hypothesis. Iron was increased in the left ATR in premanifest individuals that might uncover a dysregulated myelination or an abnormal ferritin accumulation. NAA and creatine decreased exclusively in manifest patients suggesting neuronal loss and mitochondrial dysfunction. Furthermore, imaging parameters could be used as biomarkers given their links with clinical scores.
Conclusions The complex neurodegeneration pattern of ATR in HD can help to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying HD progression. The multimodal approach and along-the-tract analysis allow for a more comprehensive evaluation of neurodegeneration.
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