Executive dysfunction in frontotemporal dementia is related to abnormalities in frontal white matter tracts
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- Tartaglia, M.C., Zhang, Y., Racine, C. et al. J Neurol (2012) 259: 1071. doi:10.1007/s00415-011-6300-x
Cognitive deficits in behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and AD are linked to frontal and temporal lobe gray matter (GM) pathology. The aim of this study was to assess the relative contribution of white (WM) and GM abnormalities to cognitive dysfunction in bvFTD and AD. Fractional anisotropy (FA) for the corpus callosum, cingulum (Cg), and uncinate fasciculus (Unc) was determined in 17 bvFTD and 10 AD patients who underwent neuropsychological testing. Regressions were performed to assess the relative contribution of WM and GM abnormalities to cognitive deficits. Multiple regression analysis revealed that in bvFTD, the left anterior Cg FA was related to executive function, the right anterior Cg FA to visual-spatial attention and working memory, the right posterior Cg to visual-constructional abilities and the left Unc FA to Modified Trails Errors. After adding corresponding GM volumes, the left anterior Cg FA, the right anterior cingulate FA, the right posterior cingulate FA and the left uncinate FA remained significant predictors of the cognitive tasks. In the AD group, the left posterior Cg FA and right descending Cg FA were related to visual recall performance but did not remain significant predictors when GM volumes were added to the regression. These results suggest that reduced integrity of specific WM tracts contribute to cognitive deficits observed in bvFTD after accounting for GM atrophy. In AD, memory impairment was related to WM tract injury but this relationship was no longer observed when GM volumes were included.