We analyzed scores obtained at the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) by 20 patients with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and contrasted it with 20 patients having Alzheimer disease (AD). Patients with hallucinations and delusions were not included due to the high probability of a diagnosis of Lewy body disease. Prevalence of behavioral and psychological symptoms (BPSD) was 95% in the PCA group, the most frequent being apathy and anxiety. Cluster analysis on NPI subscales highlighted a behavioral subsyndrome characterized by agitated temper and irritability. Depression, anxiety, and apathy did not cluster with any other BPSD nor with each other. The PCA group showed a significantly higher proportion of anxious patients and worse anxiety score than patients with AD. No correlation was found between NPI data and demographic, clinical, or neuropsychological features nor were there significant differences for the same variables between anxious and nonanxious cases with PCA. In agreement with anecdotal reports, anxiety seems particularly relevant in PCA.
Ultrasound detection of muscle fasciculations was recently proposed for assessing lower motor neuron (LMN) dysfunction in ALS patients. Given the continuum between ALS and frontotemporal degeneration (FTD), the aim of the present study was to evaluate muscle ultrasound (MUS) in FTD both for feasibility and prevalence of fasciculations. Twenty-two FTD patients were examined (five muscles bilaterally: biceps brachii, first dorsalis interosseous, T10 paraspinalis, vastus lateralis, tibialis anterior) with a 7-MHz linear array transducer and a fasciculation score (FS) computed. Twenty-two matched cognitively-intact control subjects and six ALS patients were also included. Results showed that MUS was feasible, reliable and well tolerated in all subjects. Two FTD/MND patients displayed very high FS values, similar to those in ALS patients. The remaining 20 FTD patients displayed a mean FS value significantly higher than the control group with six patients (30%) having FS values out of the range of controls. Disease progression rate correlated with the FS. In conclusion, MUS can be easily applied to FTD patients and represents a non-invasive technique for defining LMN involvement in these patients. LMN dysfunction is a frequent condition in FTD and might identify a subset of patients with a different clinical course.
Functional (conversion) neurological symptoms represent as one of the most common situations faced by neurologists in their everyday practice. Among them, acute or subacute functional weakness may mimic very prevalent conditions such as stroke or traumatic injury. Hence, accurate and reliable positive signs of functional weakness are valuable for obtaining timely diagnosis and treatment, making it possible to avoid unnecessary or invasive tests and procedures up to thrombolysis. We therefore present here a brief overview of the positive neurological signs of functional weakness available, both in the lower and in the upper limbs, moving from a historical perspective to their relevance in current clinical practice.
Identifying frontal impairment in ALS is an important goal albeit disease-dedicated tools are still scarce. For this reason, we decided to consider primitive reflexes (PRs), variably regarded as correlates of frontal release and/or of upper motor neuron (UMN) impairment, often in the setting of dementias. Specifically, the aims of this work consisted in assessing the exact prevalence of the combination of seven PRs in ALS, trying to clarify their role as putative proxies of cognitive impairment or of UMN dysfunction. In this cross-sectional study, 50 consecutive ALS outpatients were evaluated for the presence of: palmomental (PM), corneomandibular (CM), glabella tap (MY), rooting, sucking, snout, and grasping reflexes. Cognitive screening was performed by the Frontal Assessment Battery (FAB) and the Weigl's Sorting test (WST); UMN dysfunction was concomitantly evaluated. PM, CM and MY were more frequently detected (62, 52, and 44 % of the ALS sample, respectively), while the other reflexes were under-represented. Patients displaying three or more PRs had significantly lower FAB and WST scores. On the other hand, UMN dysfunction was only moderately associated to PRs. In conclusion, PRs' assessment is a promising complementary tool for screening cognitive impairment in ALS; however, further work will be necessary to establish its added value with respect to already existing ALS-dedicated screening tools for cognition.
The unquestionable advantages provided by modern neuroimaging techniques have recently led some to question the duty of the neurologist, traditionally struggling first and foremost to establish the semeiotic localization of brain lesions and only then to interpret them. The present brief report of six clinical patients who came recently to our attention aims to emphasize that the interpretation of neuroimaging results always requires integration with anamnestic, clinical and laboratory data, together with knowledge of nosography and the literature. The solutions of the reported cases always originated from close interaction between the neurologist and the neuroradiologist, based on the initial diagnostic uncertainty linked to the finding of isolated or multiple brain target or ring lesions, too often considered paradigmatic examples of the pathognomonic role of neuroimaging.
Rotation of drawings has been described in focal brain lesions, at copy when the dorsal visual stream is involved, at recall in patients with memory or frontal dysfunction. In the present study Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure performance was reviewed in 445 consecutive patients with mild cognitive impairment or degenerative dementia; a smaller sample (n = 243) had also performed the recall trial. Rotation was present in 19 cases overall: at copy in 11, at recall in 7, and at recall on a first assessment and at copy on retest in 1 last patient. Rotation at copy was often associated with neuropsychological and metabolic imaging evidence of parietal dysfunction, supporting previous evidence that rotation at copy might be due to an impairment of object perception processes within the dorsal visual stream. Rotation at recall seemed to be related predominantly to executive deficits, but no specific hypothesis on its cognitive origin can be advanced based on the present data.
Acetyl-cholinesterase inhibitors (AChEI) are drugs frequently prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimers disease (AD), exerting an effect on cognition, as well as on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and activities of daily living. The efficacy of AChEI may be ascribed not only to the activation of cholinergic transmission, but also to other mechanisms, among which a putative regulation of the immune response has already been hypothesized. In the present study, we evaluated, in a cross-sectional sample of 66AD patients and 48 healthy controls, the putative influence of AChEI on anti-Abeta 1-42 antibody plasma levels by ELISA assay. AD patients receiving AChEI therapy showed increased plasma levels of anti-Abeta 1-42 antibodies respect to untreated AD patients and antibodies levels similar to those of healthy controls, both before and after normalization by total IgG values. Our results support a potential role of AChEI in the modulation of the immune response against Abeta. We suggest that a strategy aimed at increasing the endogenous response against this peptide might represent an interesting therapeutic target to be further investigated.
Progranulin (PGRN) mutations have been recognized to be monogenic causes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). PGRN Thr272fs mutation in the Italian population has been previously identified. In the present study, we evaluated the occurrence of a founder effect studying 8 polymorphic microsatellite markers flanking the PGRN gene in 14 apparently unrelated families. We identified a common haplotype associated with PGRN Thr272fs carriers, assuming common ancestry. The inferred age analysis (range between 260 [95% credible set: 227-374] and 295 [95% credible set: 205-397] generations) places the introduction of the mutation back to the Neolithic era when the Celts, the population of that period, settled in Northern Italy. PGRN Thr272fs mutation appears to be as either behavioral frontotemporal dementia (80%) or primary progressive aphasia (20%), it was equally distributed between male and female, and the mean age at onset was 59.6 ± 5.9 (range 53-68). In 14 families, autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance was present in 64.2% of cases. No clinical predictors of disease onset were demonstrated. The identification of a large cohort of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) patients with homogeneous genetic background well may be used in the search of disease modulators to elucidate genotype-phenotype correlations of progranulopathies.
The latest developments in Lewy Body Dementia (DLB) raise some controversies on clinical features, neuroimaging and therapy. The aim of our study is to determine clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and EEG profile of DLB through retrospective and prospective data of 102 patients.
While it is well accepted that the left prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in planning and problem-solving tasks, very little is known about the role of the right prefrontal cortex. We addressed this issue by testing five neurological patients with focal lesions to right prefrontal cortex on a real-world travel planning task, and compared their performance with the performance of five neurological patients with focal lesions to left prefrontal cortex, five neurological patients with posterior lesions, and five normal controls. Only patients with lesions to right prefrontal cortex generated substandard solutions compared to normal controls. Examination of the underlying cognitive processes and strategies revealed that patients with lesions to right prefrontal cortex approached the task at an excessively precise, concrete level compared to normal controls, and very early locked themselves into substandard solutions relative to the comparison group. In contrast, the behavior of normal controls was characterized by a judicious interplay of concrete and abstract levels/modes of representations. We suggest that damage to the right prefrontal system impairs the encoding and processing of more abstract and vague representations that facilitate lateral transformations, resulting in premature commitment to precise concrete patterns, and hasty albeit substandard conclusions (because the space of possibilities has not been properly explored).
The "applause sign" is a motor perseveration described in focal and neurodegenerative disorders and characterized by fronto-subcortical dysfunction. Most previous formal investigations focused on Parkinsons disease or progressive supranuclear palsy. We assessed the prevalence of the applause sign in patients affected by Alzheimers disease (AD), Lewy body dementia (LBD), corticobasal syndrome (CBS), and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), with the aim to verify its contribution to the differential diagnosis. We enrolled 20 patients with AD, 20 with LBD, 16 with CBS, and ten with PCA, and 30 healthy controls. The three clap test (TCT) was used to elicit the applause sign, and was scored by raters blinded to the diagnosis. Correlation with motor (extrapyramidal) and cognitive measures was also performed. A maximum 40 % prevalence of a positive applause sign was found in the two parkinsonian syndromes, which could be discriminated from the two cortical groups with a positive predictive value of 82 % and a negative predictive value of 55 %. According to our findings, a diagnosis of LBD or CBS, rather than of AD or PCA, is highly probable in the presence of an abnormal TCP, but cannot be ruled out based on a negative result. No relevant correlates emerged that could clarify the origin and nature of the applause sign.
Here we report the case of Mrs. O., a 57 years-old woman presenting with mood disorder with psychotic symptoms developing strange skin lesions, ultimately leading to the suspected diagnosis of varicella-zoster encephalitis. The later appearance of a post-infectious acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy further confirmed the suspect. This case stresses the importance for not discarding a priori neurological diagnoses when facing with psychiatric patients, especially when atypical details are present.
Spinal epidural haematoma (SEH) is a rare condition usually the result of bleeding of the epidural venous plexus that might present with acute spinal cord compression. It is often due to traumatic events, but spontaneous cases have been described, usually related to different predisposing conditions, such as coagulopathies. A 47-year-old male presented with severe frontal headache and intense cervical pain which developed during a protracted breath-hold spearfishing session. A cervical spine MRI performed 12 days after symptom onset showed a small epidural blood collection on the left side of the spinal canal, at the C7-T1 level. One week later, blood was no longer present and the asymptomatic patient was discharged. Protracted minor trauma (neck flexion) and repeated Valsalva manoeuvres might have played a role in the genesis of this event. The role of decompression sickness is discussed as well.
Cognitive assessment in a clinical setting is generally made by pencil-and-paper tests, while computer-based tests enable the measurement and the extraction of additional performance indexes. Previous studies have demonstrated that in a research context exploration deficits occur also in patients without evidence of unilateral neglect at pencil-and-paper tests. The objective of this study is to apply a touchscreen-based cancellation test, feasible also in a clinical context, to large groups of control subjects and unilaterally brain-damaged patients, with and without unilateral spatial neglect (USN), in order to assess disturbances of the exploratory skills. A computerized cancellation test on a touchscreen interface was used for assessing the performance of 119 neurologically unimpaired control subjects and 193 patients with unilateral right or left hemispheric brain damage, either with or without USN. A set of performance indexes were defined including Latency, Proximity, Crossings and their spatial lateral gradients, and Preferred Search Direction. Classic outcome scores were computed as well. Results show statistically significant differences among groups (assumed p<0.05). Right-brain-damaged patients with USN were significantly slower (median latency per detected item was 1.18 s) and less efficient (about 13 search-path crossings) in the search than controls (median latency 0.64 s; about 3 crossings). Their preferred search direction (53.6% downward, 36.7% leftward) was different from the one in control patients (88.2% downward, 2.1% leftward). Right-brain-damaged patients without USN showed a significantly abnormal behavior (median latency 0.84 s, about 5 crossings, 83.3% downward and 9.1% leftward direction) situated half way between controls and right-brain-damaged patients with USN. Left-brain-damaged patients without USN were significantly slower and less efficient than controls (latency 1.19 s, about 7 crossings), preserving a normal preferred search direction (93.7% downward). Therefore, the proposed touchscreen-based assessment had evidenced disorders in spatial exploration also in patients without clinically diagnosed USN.
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