572 e-Letters

  • Split weakness signs in ALS
     I note the clinical analysis of differential weakness in ALS in elbow flexion (biceps brachii) compared to elbow extension (triceps) reported by Khalaf et al.1 This is described as analogous to similar 'split' muscle weakness around the ankle joint and, particularly, as that found in flexor digitorum indicis (FDI) compared to abductor digit minim (ADM) in the hand in the disease. It should be remembered that, although characteristic of ALS, this differential pattern of weakness has repeatedly been found not to be unique to ALS, even from the first descriptions.2,3 As the authors, and Vucic in his editorial remark,1,4 the cause of this interesting pattern of weakness in ALS remains uncertain. The finding of an association between the pattern of weakness and increased excitability in the upper motor neuron system in ALS does not necessarily provide primary support for an upper motor neuron (UMN) causation.  Nonetheless this pattern of weakness must be important in the disease. It is worth remembering that differential susceptibility to neurogenic lower motor neuron weakness is also a characteristic feature of some peripheral neuropathies, e.g., the Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndromes. Furthermore, differential muscle weakness and atrophy is a characteristic finding that is important in clinical diagnosis in the myriad different genetically determined muscular dystrophies.5 Although the causation of this differential susceptibility of certain muscles in this la...
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  • Authors' response to 'An overestimation?'

    We, the authors, thank Berthier for his comments on our study of 49 individuals with self-reported Foreign Accent Syndrome.

    In response, we would first like to clarify that we do not use Berthier’s term ‘psychogenic’, but ‘functional’ in our paper, referring to foreign accent symptoms due to changes in neural function rather than (or in addition to) the direct effects of a structural lesion. The body-mind dualism implied by the terms ‘psychological/psychogenic’ vs ‘neurogenic’ no longer holds water. Berthier himself notes that the differentiation between “functional” and “structural” may be artificial and that there has been great progress in “unveiling of the neural basis” of functional disorders. As we frequently emphasise in explaining the diagnosis to individuals with functional neurological disorders, their symptoms are definitely ‘real’; not ‘imagined’; and have a basis in changes in neural function which we are beginning to understand more clearly [1,2].

    We accept the limitations provided by our method of data collection, including limited data about investigations and a likelihood of selection bias where those with predominantly functional FAS may be somewhat over-represented in our sample. We wish to clarify, however, that cases were classified as ‘probably functional’ on the basis of reported positive clinical features of a functional disorder (e.g. periods of return to normal accent, adoption of stereotypical behaviours) and not by the presence...

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  • An overestimation of diagnosing functional foreign accent syndrome?

    Elucidating the nature of the foreign accent syndrome (FAS) can contribute to improve its diagnosis and treatment approaches. To understand this apparently rare syndrome, McWhirter et al. 1 studied a large case series of 49 subjects self-reporting having FAS. The participants were recruited via unmoderated online FAS support groups and surveys shared with neurologists and speech-language therapists from several countries. Participants completed an online protocol including validated scales tapping somatic symptoms, anxiety and depression, social-occupational function, and illness perception. They were also requested to provide speech samples recorded via computers or smartphones during oral reading and picture description. The overall clinical presentation of FAS in each participant was classified by consensus reached by three authors (2 neuropsychiatrists and 1 neurologist) in (1) “probably functional”, (2) “possibly structural” or (3) “probably structural”, wherein (1) meant no evidence of a neurological event or injury suggestive of a functional disorder but with no spontaneous remission; (2) alluded to the presence of some features suggestive of a functional disorder but with some uncertainty about a possible structural basis; and (3) denoted the evidence of a neurological event or injury coincident with the onset of FAS. The recorded speech samples were examined by experts to diagnose FAS and their frequent associated speech-language deficits (apraxia of speech, dysar...

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  • Response to: Comparison of fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide for multiple sclerosis: when methodology does not hold the promise

    We thank Dr Platt and colleagues for their critical review of our work, especially of the methodology that we have used in this study. It is understandable that comparative studies of treatment effectiveness trigger constructive discussions among industry and academics. We also vehemently agree that rigorous methodology and cautious interpretation of results is mandatory, especially for analyses of observational data.1 2 Therefore, in this letter, we will provide additional clarifications in response to the concerns raised.

    We appreciate that the categories that are underrepresented in multivariable logistic regression models may lead to inflation of estimates of the corresponding coefficients and their variance. Such inflation would, however, result in an overly conservative matching rather than the opposite. Due to the use of a caliper, patients with an extreme propensity score can not be matched to patients within the bulk of the distribution of the propensity scores. Such patients were excluded from the matched cohorts.

    The issue of residual imbalance is important in any non-randomised comparative study. We acknowledge that the standardised mean difference in annualised relapse rates (ARR) between teriflunomide and fingolimod exceeded the nominal threshold of 20%. It is therefore reassuring that the sensitivity analyses, in which the residual imbalance fell below the accepted threshold of 20% (patients with prior on-treatment relapses, Cohen’s d 14%, and...

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  • Comparison of fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide for multiple sclerosis: when methodology does not hold the promise

    Dear Editor,

    We read with interest the article by Kalincik et al. [1] comparing fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide in a cohort of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The authors investigated several endpoints and performed various sensitivity analyses, and we commend them for reporting technical details in the online supplementary material. We, however, have some concerns about the design, analysis and reporting of the study.

    1. In the primary analyses, three separate propensity score models were developed to construct a matched cohort for each of the three pairwise comparisons. Supplementary Table 6 clearly indicates the existence of zero or low frequencies in some variables (e.g., most active previous therapy and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] T2 lesions). Yet, those variables were used as covariates in the propensity score models, unsurprisingly resulting in extremely high point estimates and standard errors (SE; as reported in Supplementary Table 7). For example, teriflunomide was not the most active therapy for any patient in the dimethyl fumarate cohort (n=0 from Supplementary Table 6), but that category was nevertheless included in the propensity score model, leading to an unrealistic point estimate of 18.65 with SE of 434.5 (Supplementary Table 7). Even higher SEs (greater than 1000) are observed in the other propensity score models. Propensity scores estimated from these poorly constructed models were then used to cr...

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  • Seizures and movement disorders : cortico-subcortical networks

    Seizures and movement disorders : cortico-subcortical networks

    Dr Aileen McGonigal

    Aix Marseille Univ, Inserm, INS, Institut de Neurosciences des Systèmes, Marseille, France
    APHM, Timone Hospital, Clinical Neurophysiology, Marseille, France

    Corresponding author: Dr Aileen McGonigal, Service de Neurophysiologie Clinique, CHU Timone, AP-HM, Marseille, France
    Email : aileen.mcgonigal@univ-amu.fr
    Tel: 00 33 491384995
    Fax:00 33 491385826

    To the Editors

    I was interested to read the recent review by Dr Freitas and colleagues1. This interesting article highlights diagnostic challenges, clinical overlap and possible shared pathophysiological processes in epileptic seizures and movement disorders. I would like to add a couple of points that seem important to acknowledge.
    Firstly, in terms of clinical expression, the authors rightly mention that automatic movements occurring during focal epileptic seizures can sometimes resemble those seen in certain movement disorders, and they give the examples of orofacial automatisms (most often seen in temporal lobe seizures), as well as hyperkinetic behaviors. While the authors highlight sleep-related epilepsy as the main cause of hyperkinetic behavior, in fact hyperkinetic behavior may be seen in seizures from various cortical origins both in wakefulness and in sleep. It should be recognized that especially (though not exclusivel...

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  • Brain perivascular enhancement: MOG or GFAP- antibody related?

    Komatsu et al. presented an interesting clinicopathological case of anti-myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) demyelinating disease of the CNS. (1) Their patient had a rather unusual subacute encephalopathic presentation with extensive supratentorial fluid-attenuation inversion recovery white matter hyperintensities. The authors focused mainly on the conspicuous MRI punctuate and curvilinear enhancement pattern within the hemispheric lesions.
    It is well established that intraparenchymal punctuate and curvilinear gadolinium enhancement may arise in the context of Moyamoya syndrome, various endotheliopathies and most commonly, in disorders causing small vessels blood-brain barrier disruption. (2)These entities are associated histologically with perivascular cellular infiltrates and include inflammatory autoimmune diseases (i.e. primary or secondary angiitis of the CNS, neurosarcoidosis, histiocytosis and demyelinating diseases of the CNS), pre-lymphoma states (i.e. sentinel lesions of primary CNS lymphoma), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (i.e. intravascular lymphoma) and CLIPPERS syndrome. (2) Notably, among demyelinating disorders, multiple sclerosis and aquaporin-4 antibody (AQP4-Ab) neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) manifest this specific neuroimaging pattern in rare cases. (2,3)
    We agree with Komatsu et al. that their case is the first report of the perivascular enhancement in anti-MOG antibody disease. Indeed, gadolinium enhancement was observed in...

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  • Re: A unifying theory for cognitive abnormalities in functional neurological disorders, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

    Re: A unifying theory for cognitive abnormalities in functional neurological disorders, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

    Viraj Bharambe Specialist registrar in neurology
    John C Williamson Specialist registrar in neurology
    Andrew J Larner Consultant Neurologist

    Cognitive Function Clinic
    Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery
    Lower Lane
    L9 7LJ
    e-mail: a.larner@thewaltoncentre.nhs.uk

    Teodoro et al. present evidence for shared cognitive symptoms in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and functional neurological disorders, and hypothesize that functional cognitive disorders (FCD) may share similar symptoms.1 We present data which speak to this issue.

    We have previously reported preliminary data examining performance on the mini-Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (MACE) by patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia2 as part of a larger study of MACE.3 Here, we update these data for fibromyalgia patients (n = 17; F:M = 17:0; age range 33-56 years, median 49) and compare them to MACE performance by patients diagnosed with FCD (n = 43; F:M = 18:25; age range 28-82 years, median 58).4

    There was no statistical difference (p > 0.1) in the proportions of patients scoring below the two cut-off scores (≤21/30, ≤25/30) defined in the index MACE report.5 Looking at MACE subscores (Attention, Registration,...

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    Dear Editor,
    We have read with great interest the work by Scarpazza et al that provided a longitudinal MRI evaluation of natalizumab-related Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (NTZ-PML) lesions in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients (1).
    Their central finding was the high percentage (78.1%) of patients, who eventually developed NTZ-PML, in whom highly suggestive lesions were already retrospectively detectable on pre-diagnostic MRI exams. Furthermore, the pre-diagnostic phase proved to be relatively long (150.8±74.9 days), with an estimated percentage increase of the lesions’ volume of 62.8% per month (1).
    Given the widely recognized crucial role of a timely NTZ-PML identification in reducing mortality and residual disability (1), these results present the neurological and neuroradiological communities with an important clinical challenge, prompting a major effort to ensure an early diagnosis of this condition.
    Although redefining the timing of MRI surveillance, with up to one brain MRI exam every 3-4 months for high-risk patients, appears as a justified strategy, we think that improving the accuracy of early identification of NTZ-PML is also mandatory.
    In our opinion, such achievement should be pursued using two complementary approaches: (i) a specific training addressed to neuroradiologists working in the field of MS, who should be aware of the relevance of even very small asymptomatic PML lesions and how to differentiate them from new M...

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  • Author reply: Higher burden of common neurological diseases in women than in men

    Dear Editor,

    We thank Abat et al. for re-emphasizing an important interpretation of our work, namely that sex-differences in life-expectancy likely influenced the presented lifetime risks [1]. Indeed, in our paper we repeatedly discussed in several sections (for instance in the methods) that differences in life-expectancy between men and women could differentially affect their lifetime risk. It was for this reason that we consequently decided to analyze the data in a sex-specific manner while taking the competing risk of death into account in order to prevent potential overestimation.

    Abat et al. unfortunately also allege that we attributed the observed sex-differences in disease risk to sex-specific effects on a biological level. The authors have seemingly missed our discussion at length arguing that observed differences in lifetime risk may be primarily attributed to the effects of differences in life-expectancy between men and women: “Apart from a longer life-expectancy in general, these findings may be explained by smaller differences in life-expectancy between men and women in the Netherlands (1.8 years), compared with the USA (4.8 years). With longer life-expectancy, individuals in this study simply had more time to develop these diseases in a timeframe with high age-specific incidence rates.”

    It seems thus that ours and Abat and co-authors’ interpretation of our findings is pretty much congruent, i.e. age, irrespective of sex, should be consid...

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