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Brain Pathol. 2009 Jan;19(1):39-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.2008.00163.x. Epub 2008 Apr 15.

Adult onset leukodystrophy with neuroaxonal spheroids: clinical, neuroimaging and neuropathologic observations.

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C.S. Kubik Laboratory for Neuropathology, Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02129, USA.


Pigmented orthochromatic leukodystrophy and hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids are two adult onset leukodystrophies with neuroaxonal spheroids presenting with prominent neurobehavioral, cognitive and motor symptoms. These are familial or sporadic disorders characterized by cerebral white matter degeneration including myelin and axonal loss, gliosis, macrophages and axonal spheroids. We report clinical, neuroimaging and pathological correlations of four women ages 34-50 years with adult onset leukodystrophy. Their disease course ranged from 1.5-8 years. Three patients had progressive cognitive and behavioral changes; however, one had acute onset. Neuroimaging revealed white matter abnormalities characterized by symmetric, bilateral, T2 hyperintense and T1 hypointense Magnetic Resonance Imaging signal involving frontal lobe white matter in all patients. Extensive laboratory investigations were negative apart from abnormalities in some mitochondrial enzymes and immunologic parameters. Autopsies demonstrated severe leukodystrophy with myelin and axonal loss, axonal spheroids and macrophages with early and severe frontal white matter involvement. The extent and degree of changes outside the frontal lobe appeared to correlate with disease duration. The prominent neurobehavioral deficits and frontal white matter disease provide clinical-pathologic support for association pathways linking distributed neural circuits sub-serving cognition. These observations lend further support to the notion that white matter disease alone can account for dementia.

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