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fMRI detection of early neural dysfunction in preclinical Huntington's disease



Neuropsychological and neuroimaging changes have been observed in individuals with the Huntington's disease (HD) gene expansion prior to the onset of manifest HD. This cross-sectional fMRI study of preclinical HD (pre-HD) individuals was conducted to determine if functional brain changes precede deficits in behavioral performance and striatal atrophy. Twenty-six pre-HD and 13 demographically matched healthy participants performed a time reproduction task while undergoing fMRI scanning. Pre-HD participants were divided into two groups (n = 13 each): FAR (>12 years to estimated onset [YEO] of manifest HD) and CLOSE (<12 YEO). The CLOSE group demonstrated behavioral deficits, striatal atrophy, and reduced neural activation in the left putamen, SMA, left anterior insula and right inferior frontal gyrus. The FAR group showed reduced neural activation in the right anterior cingulate and right anterior insula. The FAR group also demonstrated increased neural activation in the left sensorimotor, left medial frontal gyrus, left precentral gyrus, bilateral superior temporal gyri and right cerebellum. The fMRI changes in the FAR group occurred in the relative absence of striatal atrophy and behavioral performance deficits. These results suggest that fMRI is sensitive to neural dysfunction occurring more than 12 years prior to the estimated onset of manifest HD. (JINS, 2007, 13, 758–769.)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Stephen M. Rao, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic Foundation/U10, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195. E-mail:


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