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J Neurol. 2013 May;260(5):1358-66. doi: 10.1007/s00415-012-6805-y. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

MR imaging and cognitive correlates of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients with cerebellar symptoms.

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Neuroimaging Research Unit, Institute of Neurological Sciences, National Research Council, 88100, Germaneto, CZ, Italy.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system, frequently associated with cognitive impairments. Damages of the cerebellum are very common features of patients with MS, although the impact of this clinical factor is generally neglected. Recent evidence from our group demonstrated that MS patients with cerebellar damages are characterized by selective cognitive dysfunctions related to attention and language abilities. Here, we aimed at investigating the presence of neuroanatomical abnormalities in relapsing-remitting MS patients with (RR-MSc) and without (RR-MSnc) cerebellar signs. Twelve RR-MSc patients, 14 demographically, clinically, and radiologically, matched RR-MSnc patients and 20 controls were investigated. All patients underwent neuropsychological assessment. After refilling of FLAIR lesions on the 3D T1-weighted images, VBM was performed using SPM8 and DARTEL. A correlation analysis was performed between VBM results and neuropsychological variables characterizing RR-MSc patients. Despite a similar clinical status, RR-MSc patients were characterized by more severe cognitive damages in attention and language domains with respect to RR-MSnc and controls. With respect to controls, RR-MSnc patients were characterized by a specific atrophy of the bilateral thalami that became more widespread (including motor cortex) in the RR-MSc group (FWE < 0.05). However, consistent with their well-defined neuropsychological deficits, RR-MSc group showed atrophies in the prefrontal and temporal cortical areas when directly compared with RR-MSnc group. Our results demonstrated that RR-MS patients having cerebellar signs were characterized by a distinct neuroanatomical profile, mainly involving cortical regions underpinning executive functions and verbal fluency.

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