Apathy Is Correlated with Widespread Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) Impairment in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.Behav Neurol. 2018; 2018:2635202.BN
Apathy is recognized as the most common behavioral change in several neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a multisystem neurodegenerative disorder. Particularly, apathy has been reported to be associated with poor ALS prognosis. However, the brain microstructural correlates of this behavioral symptom, reported as the most common in ALS, have not been completely elucidated. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS), here we aimed to quantify the correlation between brain microstructural damage and apathy scores in the early stages of ALS. Twenty-one consecutive ALS patients, in King's clinical stage 1 or 2, and 19 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) underwent magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological examination. Between-group comparisons did not show any significant difference on cognitive and behavioral variables. When compared to HCs, ALS patients exhibited a decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) [p < .05, threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE) corrected] in the corpus callosum and in bilateral anterior cingulate cortices. Self-rated Apathy Evaluation Scale (AES) scores and self-rated apathy T-scores of the Frontal Systems Behavior (FrSBe) scale were found inversely correlated to FA measures (p < .05, TFCE corrected) in widespread white matter (WM) areas, including several associative fiber tracts in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. These results point towards an early microstructural degeneration of brain areas biologically involved in cognition and behavior regulation in ALS. Moreover, the significant correlations between apathy and DTI measures in several brain areas may suggest that subtle WM changes may be associated with mild behavioral symptoms in ALS even in the absence of overt cognitive and behavioral impairment.