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Structural MRI predicts clinical progression in presymptomatic genetic frontotemporal dementia: findings from the GENetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative cohort.

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Bouzigues, Arabella 
Nicholas, Jennifer M 


Biomarkers that can predict disease progression in individuals with genetic frontotemporal dementia are urgently needed. We aimed to identify whether baseline MRI-based grey and white matter abnormalities are associated with different clinical progression profiles in presymptomatic mutation carriers in the GENetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative. Three hundred eighty-seven mutation carriers were included (160 GRN, 160 C9orf72, 67 MAPT), together with 240 non-carrier cognitively normal controls. Cortical and subcortical grey matter volumes were generated using automated parcellation methods on volumetric 3T T1-weighted MRI scans, while white matter characteristics were estimated using diffusion tensor imaging. Mutation carriers were divided into two disease stages based on their global CDR®+NACC-FTLD score: presymptomatic (0 or 0.5) and fully symptomatic (1 or greater). The w-scores in each grey matter volumes and white matter diffusion measures were computed to quantify the degree of abnormality compared to controls for each presymptomatic carrier, adjusting for their age, sex, total intracranial volume, and scanner type. Presymptomatic carriers were classified as 'normal' or 'abnormal' based on whether their grey matter volume and white matter diffusion measure w-scores were above or below the cut point corresponding to the 10th percentile of the controls. We then compared the change in disease severity between baseline and one year later in both the 'normal' and 'abnormal' groups within each genetic subtype, as measured by the CDR®+NACC-FTLD sum-of-boxes score and revised Cambridge Behavioural Inventory total score. Overall, presymptomatic carriers with normal regional w-scores at baseline did not progress clinically as much as those with abnormal regional w-scores. Having abnormal grey or white matter measures at baseline was associated with a statistically significant increase in the CDR®+NACC-FTLD of up to 4 points in C9orf72 expansion carriers, and 5 points in the GRN group as well as a statistically significant increase in the revised Cambridge Behavioural Inventory of up to 11 points in MAPT, 10 points in GRN, and 8 points in C9orf72 mutation carriers. Baseline regional brain abnormalities on MRI in presymptomatic mutation carriers are associated with different profiles of clinical progression over time. These results may be helpful to inform stratification of participants in future trials.


Funder: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Funder: Dementia Research Institute

Funder: Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre

Funder: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Funder: Medical Research Council

Funder: Miriam Marks Brain Research UK Senior Fellowship

Funder: Wolfson Foundation

Funder: Mady Browaeys Fonds voor Onderzoek naar Frontotemporale Degeneratie

Funder: NVIDIA

Funder: Alzheimer's Research UK

Funder: Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Research

Funder: Brain Research UK

Funder: University College London


MRI imaging, brain volumetry, diffusion imaging, genetic frontotemporal dementia, presymptomatic stage

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Brain Commun

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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Wellcome Trust (103838/Z/14/Z)
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) (146281)