Distinct cerebellar regions related to motor and cognitive performance in SCA6 patients

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Abstract

Objective

To demonstrate a correlation between anatomic regional changes in Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 6 (SCA6) patients and measures of cognitive performance on neuropsychological tests.

Methods

Neurocognitive testing was conducted on 24 SCA6 and 28 control subjects. For each cognitive test, SCA6 patients were compared against the controls using Student's t-test. For the cerebellar patients, using voxel based morphometry, correlations between cerebellar gray matter volume at each voxel and performance on the neuropsychological exams were calculated using the Pearson correlation coefficient implemented in SPM8.

Results

Compared to controls, SCA6 patients exhibited significantly impaired performance on the following cognitive tests: Rey-Auditory Verbal Learning Test Trial V, Controlled Oral Word Association phonemic test and semantic-verb test, Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure copy test as well as immediate and delayed visuo-spatial memory recall test, Trail Making Test (TMT) Part A and Part B, Stroop Color Task completion time, Stroop Color-Word Task score, and Grooved Pegboard Test (GPT) Dominant and Non-Dominant Hand time. Correlations of gray matter density with cognitive test performance were determined for all SCA6 subjects. Using a p-value threshold of 0.001 and family-wise small volume error correction, significant correlations were found for GPT Non-Dominant, GPT Dominant, TMT Part A, and TMT Part B.

Conclusion

Different regional patterns of cerebellar involvement were found for the motoric GPT task and the executive version of the TMT. The results for the GPT strongly indicated that the integrity of medial superior hemispheric regions was associated with motor task performance, whereas executive cognitive function was localized in distinctly different inferior regions. This is the first VBM study to differentiate cognitive and motor contributions of the cerebellum.

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