Frontiers in Neurology (Aug 2018)

Current Progress in CNS Imaging of Myotonic Dystrophy

  • Martina Minnerop,
  • Martina Minnerop,
  • Carla Gliem,
  • Cornelia Kornblum,
  • Cornelia Kornblum

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9


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Neuroimaging in myotonic dystrophies provided a major contribution to the insight into brain involvement which is highly prevalent in these multisystemic disorders. Particular in Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1, conventional MRI first revealed hyperintense white matter lesions, predominantly localized in the anterior temporal lobe. Brain atrophy and ventricle enlargement were additional early findings already described almost 30 years ago. Since then, more advanced and sophisticated imaging methods have been applied in Myotonic Dystrophy Types 1 and 2. Involvement of actually normal appearing white matter and widespread cortical affection in PET studies were key results toward the recognition of diffuse and not only focally localized brain pathology in vivo. Later, structural abnormalities of both, gray and white matter, have been found in both forms of the disorder, albeit more prominent in myotonic dystrophy type 1. In Type 1, a consistent widespread cortical and subcortical involvement of gray and white matter affecting all lobes, brainstem and cerebellum was observed. Spectroscopy studies gave additional evidence of neuronal and glial damage in both types. Central questions regarding the origin and spatiotemporal evolution of the CNS involvement and its relevance for clinical symptoms had already been raised 30 years ago, however are still not answered. Results of correlation analyses between neuroimaging and clinical parameters are diverse and with few exceptions not well reproducible across studies. It may be related to the fact that most of the reported studies included only small numbers of subjects, sometimes even not separating Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 from Type 2. But this heterogeneity may also support the current point of view that the clinical impairments are not simply linked to specific and regionally circumscribed structural or functional brain alterations. It seems more convincing that disturbed networks build the functional and structural substrate of clinical symptoms in these disorders as it is proposed in other neuropsychiatric diseases. Consecutively, structural and functional network analyses may provide additional information regarding the link between brain pathology and clinical symptoms. Up to now, only cross-sectional neuroimaging studies have been published. To analyze the temporal evolution of brain affection, longitudinal studies are urgently needed, and systematic natural history data would be useful to identify potential biomarkers for therapeutic studies.