, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 504-512
Date: 09 Feb 2013

Cognition in Late-Onset Friedreich Ataxia

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Abstract

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is the most common hereditary ataxia. Since the discovery of the genetic cause of this disease, the phenotypic spectrum seems to be wider, including late-onset forms such as late-onset Friedreich ataxia—LOFA (25–39 years at onset). The neuropathological and clinical patterns in patients with LOFA are similar to those in patients with typical FRDA, but LOFA patients tend to have an overall milder, slowly evolving disease. Given the lack of data about cognitive performance of LOFA, we aimed to investigate whether differences in age at disease onset may be related also to differences at a cognitive level. Twenty-nine typical FRDA and seven LOFA patients were administered a comprehensive neuropsychological battery measuring multiple domains: processing speed, attention, working memory, executive functions, verbal and visual memory, visuoperceptive and visuospatial skills, visuoconstructive functions, and language. There were no significant differences in disease duration between the two groups of patients. Every patient group was matched in gender, age, years of education, and estimated IQ with a healthy-participant control group. Results indicate that both patient groups shared slowed motor processing speed and impaired conceptual thinking and verbal fluency. However, only typical FRDA patients showed a diminished cognitive processing speed and impaired visuoperceptive and visuoconstructive abilities. This pattern indicates that a later disease onset is associated to a milder cognitive impairment. Thus, our findings are in concordance with those related to clinical differences between typical FRDA and LOFA.