Neuronal network disintegration: common pathways linking neurodegenerative diseases

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Neurodegeneration refers to a heterogeneous group of brain disorders that progressively evolve. It has been increasingly appreciated that many neurodegenerative conditions overlap at multiple levels and therefore traditional clinicopathological correlation approaches to better classify a disease have met with limited success. Neuronal network disintegration is fundamental to neurodegeneration, and concepts based around such a concept may better explain the overlap between their clinical and pathological phenotypes. In this Review, promoters of overlap in neurodegeneration incorporating behavioural, cognitive, metabolic, motor, and extrapyramidal presentations will be critically appraised. In addition, evidence that may support the existence of large-scale networks that might be contributing to phenotypic differentiation will be considered across a neurodegenerative spectrum. Disintegration of neuronal networks through different pathological processes, such as prion-like spread, may provide a better paradigm of disease and thereby facilitate the identification of novel therapies for neurodegeneration.

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