Publications by Year: 2017

2017
Cognitive performance in mid-stage Parkinson's disease: functional connectivity under chronic antiparkinson treatment
Roxana Vancea, Kristina Simonyan, Maria Petracca, Miroslaw Brys, Alessandro Di Rocco, Maria Felice Ghilardi, and Matilde Inglese. 2017. “Cognitive performance in mid-stage Parkinson's disease: functional connectivity under chronic antiparkinson treatment.” Brain Imaging Behav.Abstract
Cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease (PD) is related to the reorganization of brain topology. Although drug challenge studies have proven how levodopa treatment can modulate functional connectivity in brain circuits, the role of chronic dopaminergic therapy on cognitive status and functional connectivity has never been investigated. We sought to characterize brain functional topology in mid-stage PD patients under chronic antiparkinson treatment and explore the presence of correlation between reorganization of brain architecture and specific cognitive deficits. We explored networks topology and functional connectivity in 16 patients with PD and 16 matched controls through a graph theoretical analysis of resting state-functional MRI data, and evaluated the relationships between network metrics and cognitive performance. PD patients showed a preserved small-world network topology but a lower clustering coefficient in comparison with healthy controls. Locally, PD patients showed lower degree of connectivity and local efficiency in many hubs corresponding to functionally relevant areas. Four disconnected subnetworks were also identified in regions responsible for executive control, sensory-motor control and planning, motor coordination and visual elaboration. Executive functions and information processing speed were directly correlated with degree of connectivity and local efficiency in frontal, parietal and occipital areas. While functional reorganization appears in both motor and cognitive areas, the clinical expression of network imbalance seems to be partially compensated by the chronic levodopa treatment with regards to the motor but not to the cognitive performance. In a context of reduced network segregation, the presence of higher local efficiency in hubs regions correlates with a better cognitive performance.
Full text.pdf
Connectome-Wide Phenotypical and Genotypical Associations in Focal Dystonia
Stefan Fuertinger and Kristina Simonyan. 2017. “Connectome-Wide Phenotypical and Genotypical Associations in Focal Dystonia.” J Neurosci, 37, 31, Pp. 7438-7449.Abstract
Isolated focal dystonia is a debilitating movement disorder of unknown pathophysiology. Early studies in focal dystonias have pointed to segregated changes in brain activity and connectivity. Only recently has the notion that dystonia pathophysiology may lie in abnormalities of large-scale brain networks appeared in the literature. Here, we outline a novel concept of functional connectome-wide alterations that are linked to dystonia phenotype and genotype. Using a neural community detection strategy and graph theoretical analysis of functional MRI data in human patients with the laryngeal form of dystonia (LD) and healthy controls (both males and females), we identified an abnormally widespread hub formation in LD, which particularly affected the primary sensorimotor and parietal cortices and thalamus. Left thalamic regions formed a delineated functional community that highlighted differences in network topology between LD patients with and without family history of dystonia. Conversely, marked differences in the topological organization of parietal regions were found between phenotypically different forms of LD. The interface between sporadic genotype and adductor phenotype of LD yielded four functional communities that were primarily governed by intramodular hub regions. Conversely, the interface between familial genotype and abductor phenotype was associated with numerous long-range hub nodes and an abnormal integration of left thalamus and basal ganglia. Our findings provide the first comprehensive atlas of functional topology across different phenotypes and genotypes of focal dystonia. As such, this study constitutes an important step toward defining dystonia as a large-scale network disorder, understanding its causative pathophysiology, and identifying disorder-specific markers.The architecture of the functional connectome in focal dystonia was analyzed in a large population of patients with laryngeal dystonia. Breaking with the empirical concept of dystonia as a basal ganglia disorder, we discovered large-scale alterations of neural communities that are significantly influenced by the disorder's clinical phenotype and genotype.
Full text.pdf
The direct basal ganglia pathway is hyperfunctional in focal dystonia
Kristina Simonyan, Hyun Cho, Azadeh Hamzehei Sichani, Estee Rubien-Thomas, and Mark Hallett. 2017. “The direct basal ganglia pathway is hyperfunctional in focal dystonia.” Brain, 140, 12, Pp. 3179-3190.Abstract
Focal dystonias are the most common type of isolated dystonia. Although their causative pathophysiology remains unclear, it is thought to involve abnormal functioning of the basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuitry. We used high-resolution research tomography with the radioligand 11C-NNC-112 to examine striatal dopamine D1 receptor function in two independent groups of patients, writer’s cramp and laryngeal dystonia, compared to healthy controls. We found that availability of dopamine D1 receptors was significantly increased in bilateral putamen by 19.6–22.5% in writer’s cramp and in right putamen and caudate nucleus by 24.6–26.8% in laryngeal dystonia (all P ≤ 0.009). This suggests hyperactivity of the direct basal ganglia pathway in focal dystonia. Our findings paralleled abnormally decreased dopaminergic function via the indirect basal ganglia pathway and decreased symptom-induced phasic striatal dopamine release in writer’s cramp and laryngeal dystonia. When examining topological distribution of dopamine D1 and D2 receptor abnormalities in these forms of dystonia, we found abnormal separation of direct and indirect pathways within the striatum, with negligible, if any, overlap between the two pathways and with the regions of phasic dopamine release. However, despite topological disorganization of dopaminergic function, alterations of dopamine D1 and D2 receptors were somatotopically localized within the striatal hand and larynx representations in writer’s cramp and laryngeal dystonia, respectively. This finding points to their direct relevance to disorder-characteristic clinical features. Increased D1 receptor availability showed significant negative correlations with dystonia duration but not its severity, likely representing a developmental endophenotype of this disorder. In conclusion, a comprehensive pathophysiological mechanism of abnormal basal ganglia function in focal dystonia is built upon upregulated dopamine D1 receptors that abnormally increase excitation of the direct pathway, downregulated dopamine D2receptors that abnormally decrease inhibition within the indirect pathway, and weakened nigro-striatal phasic dopamine release during symptomatic task performance. Collectively, these aberrations of striatal dopaminergic function underlie imbalance between direct and indirect basal ganglia pathways and lead to abnormal thalamo-motor-cortical hyperexcitability in dystonia.
Full text.pdf
Isolated Focal Dystonia as a Disorder of Large-Scale Functional Networks
Giovanni Battistella, Pichet Termsarasab, Ritesh A Ramdhani, Stefan Fuertinger, and Kristina Simonyan. 2017. “Isolated Focal Dystonia as a Disorder of Large-Scale Functional Networks.” Cereb Cortex, 27, 2, Pp. 1203-1215.Abstract
Isolated focal dystonias are a group of disorders with diverse symptomatology but unknown pathophysiology. Although recent neuroimaging studies demonstrated regional changes in brain connectivity, it remains unclear whether focal dystonia may be considered a disorder of abnormal networks. We examined topology as well as the global and local features of large-scale functional brain networks across different forms of isolated focal dystonia, including patients with task-specific (TSD) and nontask-specific (NTSD) dystonias. Compared with healthy participants, all patients showed altered network architecture characterized by abnormal expansion or shrinkage of neural communities, such as breakdown of basal ganglia-cerebellar community, loss of a pivotal region of information transfer (hub) in the premotor cortex, and pronounced connectivity reduction within the sensorimotor and frontoparietal regions. TSD were further characterized by significant connectivity changes in the primary sensorimotor and inferior parietal cortices and abnormal hub formation in insula and superior temporal cortex, whereas NTSD exhibited abnormal strength and number of regional connections. We suggest that isolated focal dystonias likely represent a disorder of large-scale functional networks, where abnormal regional interactions contribute to network-wide functional alterations and may underline the pathophysiology of isolated focal dystonia. Distinct symptomatology in TSD and NTSD may be linked to disorder-specific network aberrations.
Full text.pdf
Neural correlates of dystonic tremor: a multimodal study of voice tremor in spasmodic dysphonia
Diana N Kirke, Giovanni Battistella, Veena Kumar, Estee Rubien-Thomas, Melissa Choy, Anna Rumbach, and Kristina Simonyan. 2017. “Neural correlates of dystonic tremor: a multimodal study of voice tremor in spasmodic dysphonia.” Brain Imaging Behav, 11, 1, Pp. 166-175.Abstract
Tremor, affecting a dystonic body part, is a frequent feature of adult-onset dystonia. However, our understanding of dystonic tremor pathophysiology remains ambiguous as its interplay with the main co-occurring disorder, dystonia, is largely unknown. We used a combination of functional MRI, voxel-based morphometry and diffusion-weighted imaging to investigate similar and distinct patterns of brain functional and structural alterations in patients with dystonic tremor of voice (DTv) and isolated spasmodic dysphonia (SD). We found that, compared to controls, SD patients with and without DTv showed similarly increased activation in the sensorimotor cortex, inferior frontal (IFG) and superior temporal gyri, putamen and ventral thalamus, as well as deficient activation in the inferior parietal cortex and middle frontal gyrus (MFG). Common structural alterations were observed in the IFG and putamen, which were further coupled with functional abnormalities in both patient groups. Abnormal activation in left putamen was correlated with SD onset; SD/DTv onset was associated with right putaminal volumetric changes. DTv severity established a significant relationship with abnormal volume of the left IFG. Direct patient group comparisons showed that SD/DTv patients had additional abnormalities in MFG and cerebellar function and white matter integrity in the posterior limb of the internal capsule. Our findings suggest that dystonia and dystonic tremor, at least in the case of SD and SD/DTv, are heterogeneous disorders at different ends of the same pathophysiological spectrum, with each disorder carrying a characteristic neural signature, which may potentially help development of differential markers for these two conditions.
Full text.pdf
An open-label study of sodium oxybate in Spasmodic dysphonia
Anna F Rumbach, Andrew Blitzer, Steven J Frucht, and Kristina Simonyan. 2017. “An open-label study of sodium oxybate in Spasmodic dysphonia.” Laryngoscope, 127, 6, Pp. 1402-1407.Abstract
OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a task-specific laryngeal dystonia that affects speech production. Co-occurring voice tremor (VT) often complicates the diagnosis and clinical management of SD. Treatment of SD and VT is largely limited to botulinum toxin injections into laryngeal musculature; other pharmacological options are not sufficiently developed. STUDY DESIGN: Open-label study. METHODS: We conducted an open-label study in 23 SD and 22 SD/VT patients to examine the effects of sodium oxybate (Xyrem), an oral agent with therapeutic effects similar to those of alcohol in these patients. Blinded randomized analysis of voice and speech samples assessed symptom improvement before and after drug administration. RESULTS: Sodium oxybate significantly improved voice symptoms (P = .001) primarily by reducing the number of SD-characteristic voice breaks and severity of VT. Sodium oxybate further showed a trend for improving VT symptoms (P = .03) in a subset of patients who received successful botulinum toxin injections for the management of their SD symptoms. The drug's effects were observed approximately 30 to 40 minutes after its intake and lasted about 3.5 to 4 hours. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrated that sodium oxybate reduced voice symptoms in 82.2% of alcohol-responsive SD patients both with and without co-occurring VT. Our findings suggest that the therapeutic mechanism of sodium oxybate in SD and SD/VT may be linked to that of alcohol, and as such, sodium oxybate might be beneficial for alcohol-responsive SD and SD/VT patients. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 4 Laryngoscope, 127:1402-1407, 2017.
Full text.pdf
Phenotype- and genotype-specific structural alterations in spasmodic dysphonia
Serena Bianchi, Giovanni Battistella, Hailey Huddleston, Rebecca Scharf, Lazar Fleysher, Anna F Rumbach, Steven J Frucht, Andrew Blitzer, Laurie J Ozelius, and Kristina Simonyan. 2017. “Phenotype- and genotype-specific structural alterations in spasmodic dysphonia.” Mov Disord, 32, 4, Pp. 560-568.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Spasmodic dysphonia is a focal dystonia characterized by involuntary spasms in the laryngeal muscles that occur selectively during speaking. Although hereditary trends have been reported in up to 16% of patients, the causative etiology of spasmodic dysphonia is unclear, and the influences of various phenotypes and genotypes on disorder pathophysiology are poorly understood. In this study, we examined structural alterations in cortical gray matter and white matter integrity in relationship to different phenotypes and putative genotypes of spasmodic dysphonia to elucidate the structural component of its complex pathophysiology. METHODS: Eighty-nine patients with spasmodic dysphonia underwent high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion-weighted imaging to examine cortical thickness and white matter fractional anisotropy in adductor versus abductor forms (distinct phenotypes) and in sporadic versus familial cases (distinct genotypes). RESULTS: Phenotype-specific abnormalities were localized in the left sensorimotor cortex and angular gyrus and the white matter bundle of the right superior corona radiata. Genotype-specific alterations were found in the left superior temporal gyrus, supplementary motor area, and the arcuate portion of the left superior longitudinal fasciculus. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that phenotypic differences in spasmodic dysphonia arise at the level of the primary and associative areas of motor control, whereas genotype-related pathophysiological mechanisms may be associated with dysfunction of regions regulating phonological and sensory processing. Identification of structural alterations specific to disorder phenotype and putative genotype provides an important step toward future delineation of imaging markers and potential targets for novel therapeutic interventions for spasmodic dysphonia. © 2017 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.
Full text.pdf
Practice does not make perfect: Temporal discrimination in musicians with and without dystonia
Owen Killian, Eavan M McGovern, Rebecca Beck, Ines Beiser, Shruti Narasimham, Brendan Quinlivan, Sean O'Riordan, Kristina Simonyan, Michael Hutchinson, and Richard B Reilly. 2017. “Practice does not make perfect: Temporal discrimination in musicians with and without dystonia.” Mov Disord, 32, 12, Pp. 1791-1792. Full text.pdf
Screening study of TUBB4A in isolated dystonia
Franca Vulinovic, Susen Schaake, Aloysius Domingo, Kishore Raj Kumar, Giovanni Defazio, Pablo Mir, Kristina Simonyan, Laurie J Ozelius, Norbert Brüggemann, Sun Ju Chung, Aleksandar Rakovic, Katja Lohmann, and Christine Klein. 2017. “Screening study of TUBB4A in isolated dystonia.” Parkinsonism Relat Disord, 41, Pp. 118-120.Abstract
Mutations in TUBB4A have been identified to cause a wide phenotypic spectrum ranging from hereditary generalized dystonia with whispering dysphonia (DYT4) to the leukodystrophy hypomyelination syndrome with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum (H-ABC). To test for the contribution of TUBB4A mutations in different ethnicities (Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese), we screened 492 isolated dystonia cases for mutations in this gene and for the first time determined TUBB4A copy number variations in 336 dystonia patients. A potentially pathogenic rare 3bp-in-frame deletion was found in a patient with cervical dystonia but no copy number variations were detected in this study, suggesting that TUBB4A mutations exceedingly rarely contribute to the etiology of isolated dystonia.
Full text.pdf