Medial temporal lobe atrophy as a predictor of poor cognitive outcomes in general paresis

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The effect of penicillin therapy on clinical outcomes vary among patients with general paresis (GP). We sought to explore biomarkers that might serve as predictors of clinical outcomes in GP and identify patients requiring early intervention.


Thirty-five inpatients with GP were recruited. Each GP patient underwent comprehensive neuropsychological, neuroimaging and laboratory assessments before receiving penicillin therapy, and returned for follow-up evaluations after 6 months. The visual rating of medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA) and the Fazekas scale was used to analyze the neuroimaging abnormalities.


MTA scores were correlated with the pre-treatment cognitive scores and change in Mini Mental State Examination scores. GP patients with a Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (CDR) ≤1 or MTA scores ≤2 achieved significant improvement in neuropsychological test scores, as compared with patients with CDR >1 or MTA scores >2. Fazekas scale scores correlated with the pre-treatment attention scores. Significant improvements in cognitive test scores were observed in GP patients with normalization of serum rapid plasma regain (RPR) titers, but not those without normalization of RPR titers.


Severe MTA may serve as a predictor of poor cognitive outcome and an indicator of severe cognitive impairment in GP patients. Thus, early interventions for improving cognitive function may be considered for GP patients with severe MTA. White matter hyperintensities may associated with attention impairment. Serum RPR titer may serve as a sensitive indicator of therapeutic effect in GP.

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