Neuropathologic and neuroimaging studies have suggested that frontal lobes are affected in Huntington's disease (HD), and that atrophy in this region may be associated with some of the cognitive impairment and clinical decline observed in patients with HD. We measured gray and white matter volumes within the frontal lobes on MRI for 20 patients with HD (10 mildly affected and 10 moderately affected) and 20 age- and sex-matched control subjects. We also correlated frontal lobe measurements with measures of symptom severity and cognitive function. Patients who were mildly affected had frontal lobe volumes (both gray and white matter) essentially identical to those of control subjects, despite clearly abnormal basal ganglia. Patients who were moderately affected demonstrated significant reductions in total frontal lobe volume (17%) and frontal white matter volume (28%). Frontal lobe white matter volume reductions, but not total frontal lobe volume reductions, were disproportionately greater than overall brain volume reductions (17%). Frontal lobe volume correlated with symptom severity and general cognitive function, but these correlations did not remain significant after taking into account total brain volume. We conclude that cognitive impairment and symptom severity are associated with frontal lobe atrophy, but this association is not specific to the frontal lobes. Frontal lobe atrophy (like total brain atrophy) occurs in later stages of increasing HD symptom severity and this atrophy primarily involves white matter.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology