NeuroImage: Clinical (2020-01-01)

Lifetime sport practice and brain metabolism in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Antonio Canosa,
  • Fabrizio D'Ovidio,
  • Andrea Calvo,
  • Cristina Moglia,
  • Umberto Manera,
  • Maria Claudia Torrieri,
  • Rosario Vasta,
  • Angelina Cistaro,
  • Silvia Gallo,
  • Barbara Iazzolino,
  • Flavio Mariano Nobili,
  • Federico Casale,
  • Adriano Chiò,
  • Marco Pagani

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 27
p. 102312


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Objective: To evaluate the metabolic correlates of lifetime sport practice in ALS through brain 18F-FDG-PET. Methods: 131 patients completed a questionnaire about lifetime exposures, including physical activity related to sports, hobbies and occupations, and underwent brain 18F-FDG-PET. Exposure to sports was expressed as MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task). We considered only regular practice (at least 2 h/week, for at least three months). We compared brain metabolism between two groups: subjects who did not report regular sport practice during life (N-group) and patients who did (Y-group). The resulting significant clusters were used in each group as seed regions in an interregional correlation analysis (IRCA) to evaluate the impact of lifetime sport practice on brain networks typically involved by the neurodegenerative process of ALS. Each group was compared to healthy controls (HC, n = 40). Results: We found a significant, relative cerebellar hypermetabolism in the N-group compared to the Y-group. The metabolism of such cerebellar cluster resulted correlated to more significant and widespread metabolic changes in areas known to be affected by ALS (i.e. frontotemporal regions and corticospinal tracts) in the N-group as compared to the Y-group, despite the same level of disability as expressed by the ALS FRS-R. Such findings resulted independent of age, sex, site of onset (bulbar/spinal), presence/absence of C9ORF72 expansion, cognitive status and physical activity related to hobbies and occupations. When compared to HC, the N-group showed more widespread metabolic changes than the Y-group in cortical regions known to be relatively hypometabolic in ALS patients as compared to HC. Conclusions: We hypothesize that patients of the N-group might cope better with the neurodegenerative process, since they show more widespread metabolic changes as compared to the Y-group, despite the same level of disability. Nevertheless, further studies are necessary to corroborate this hypothesis.