Impaired corticopontocerebellar tracts underlie pseudobulbar affect in motor neuron disorders

Mary Kay Floeter, Rohan Katipally, Meredith P. Kim, Olivia Schanz, Matthew Stephen, Laura Danielian, Tianxia Wu, Edward D. Huey, Avner Meoded

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The objectives of the study were (1) to determine the prevalence and characteristics of pseudobulbar affect (PBA) in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in an outpatient clinic population, and (2) to test the hypothesis that damage of inputs to the cerebellum, leading to cerebellar dysmodulation, is associated with PBA. Methods: Chart review of all patients with PLS and ALS seen between 2000 and 2013. The examining neurologist documented the presence or absence of PBA in 87 patients. Fortyseven patients also had diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies. Tract-based spatial statistics were used to compare DTI of patients with and without PBA to identify altered white matter tracts associated with PBA. Results: Thirty-one of 50 patients with PLS and 12 of 37 patients with ALS had PBA. Psychiatric/emotional assessment found congruence between mood and affect during episodes, but excessive magnitude of the response. DTI studies of 25 PLS and 22 ALS patient brains showed reduced fractional anisotropy of the corticospinal and callosal white matter tracts in all patients. Patients with PBA additionally had increased mean diffusivity of white matter tracts underlying the frontotemporal cortex, the transverse pontine fibers, and the middle cerebellar peduncle. Conclusions: PBA is common in PLS. Imaging findings showing disruption of corticopontocerebellar pathways support the hypothesis that PBA can be viewed as a "dysmetria" of emotional expression resulting from cerebellar dysmodulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-627
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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