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Pay attention to the basal ganglia: a volumetric study in early dementia with Lewy bodies

  • Botzung, Anne1
  • Philippi, Nathalie1, 2
  • Noblet, Vincent2
  • Loureiro de Sousa, Paulo2
  • Blanc, Frédéric1, 2
  • 1 Strasbourg University Hospital, Strasbourg, France , Strasbourg (France)
  • 2 University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France , Strasbourg (France)
Published Article
Alzheimer's Research & Therapy
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s13195-019-0568-y
Springer Nature


BackgroundCortical and subcortical cognitive impairments are usually found in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Roughly, they comprise visuo-constructive/executive function and attention/processing speed impairments, whereas memory would remain relatively spared. In this study, we focused on the neuro-anatomical substrates of attention and processing speed, which is still poorly understood. For the purpose of the study, we examined the correlations between behavioral scores measuring the speed of processing and the degree of cerebral atrophy in patients with prodromal to moderate DLB.MethodsNinety-three prodromal to moderate DLB patients (mean MMSE = 25.5) were selected to participate in the study as well as 28 healthy elderly subjects (mean MMSE = 28.9), matched in terms of age and educational level. The Trail Making Test A (TMTA) and the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) were used to assess attention and processing speed. Behavioral performances were compared between patients and healthy control subjects. Three-dimensional MRI images were acquired for all participants, and correlational analyses were performed in the patient group using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).ResultsThe behavioral results on both the TMTA (p = .026) and the DSST (p < .001) showed significantly impaired performances in patients in comparison with control subjects. In addition, correlational analyses using VBM revealed for the TMTA negative correlations in the caudate nucleus (left cluster peak significant at .05 FWE corrected), the putamen, the left thalamus, and the subthalamic nuclei (p < .05 FDR corrected). Some positive correlations associated with the DSST were found in the right inferior frontal gyrus, the left thalamus, and the left cerebellum (p < .001 uncorrected).ConclusionsThe behavioral results are in line with the literature on the DLB cognitive profile and confirm the existence of attention and processing speed impairment. Interestingly, VBM analysis revealed the involvement of the basal ganglia, in particular, the left caudate nucleus, which is part of the attention cerebral network, suggesting an important role of this structure for attentional processing speed. This also suggests the clinical implication of damage in this region relatively early in the course of the disease.

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