Neuroimaging as a tool to study the sources of phenotypic heterogeneity in Huntington's disease

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a triad of motor, cognitive and psychiatric disturbances. There is great variability regarding the prominence and evolution of each type of clinical sign. One possible source of phenotypic heterogeneity could be the more prominent degeneration of specific brain circuits. The scope of this review is to highlight the most recent neuroimaging studies that have analysed the relationship between brain changes and motor, cognitive and psychiatric alterations in Huntington's disease.

Recent findings

The results from recent neuroimaging studies are heterogeneous. Although there is a great overlap between the different regions associated with each symptomatic domain, there is some degree of differentiation. For example, the motor network is associated with motor impairment, whereas the ventral striatum is especially involved in emotional deficits related with psychiatric problems.

Summary

Motor, cognitive and psychiatric impairments are associated with structural and functional brain biomarkers. However, the specificity of the regions involved remains unknown, because these studies focused on specific regions and symptoms. In order to tease apart the neural substrates that underlie the phenotypic heterogeneity in Huntington's disease, multivariate approaches combining brain and behavioural measures related to all symptomatic domains should be considered in the future.

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