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Cerebellum and cognition in Friedreich ataxia: a voxel-based morphometry and volumetric MRI study

The aim of this study was to investigate the correlation between cerebellar volume and cognition in Friedreich ataxia (FRDA). Nineteen FRDA patients and 20 healthy controls (HC) were included in this study and evaluated via a neuropsychological examination. Cerebellar global and lobular volumes were computed using the Spatially Unbiased Infratentorial Toolbox (SUIT). Furthermore, a cerebellar voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was also carried out. Correlations between MRI metrics and clinical data were tested via partial correlation analysis. FRDA patients showed a significant reduction of the total cerebellar volume (p = 0.004), significantly affecting the Lobule IX (p = 0.001). At the VBM analysis, we found a cluster of significant reduced GM density encompassing the entire lobule IX (p = 0.003). When correlations were probed, we found a direct correlation between Lobule IX volume and impaired visuo-spatial functions (r = 0.58, p = 0.02), with a similar correlation that was found between the same altered function and results obtained at the VBM (r = 0.52; p = 0.03). With two different image analysis techniques, the authors confirmed the presence of cerebellar volume loss in FRDA, mainly affecting the posterior lobe. In particular, Lobule IX atrophy correlated with worse visuo-spatial abilities, further expanding knowledge about the physiopathology of cognitive impairment in FRDA.

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About the Author

Jen Farmer

Jen Farmer

Executive Director

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